Duck Reach Power Station was the first publicly owned hydro-electric plant in the Southern Hemisphere, and provided the Tasmanian city of Launceston with hydro-electric power from its construction in 1895 to its closure in 1955.
The Duck Reach Power Station first operated on a trial basis on the evening of the 10th of December 1895, when it was used to illuminate some of Launceston’s streets using arc lights. On the 1st of February 1896, the hydro-electric power system was officially switched on, remaining in operation until 1955.
The generating station was situated about 40 feet (12m) above the level of the river. It was quite a substantial erection, with 18 inch (460mm) stone walls and an iron roof. Originally it had only one storey with a gallery running along the side to facilitate access to the machinery. It was 105 feet (32m) in length and 24 feet (7m) wide with a height of 22 feet (6.7m) to the ridge line, large enough to hold nine or ten turbines.
At that time it only contained eight turbines; five for arc lighting and three for incandescent 1 lighting. On 12th February 1895 the Launceston Municipal Council accepted the tender of Mr J.T. Farmilo to build the station at a cost of £1 488.9.6, the contract to last 17 weeks. Because of the nature of the country (being very rocky) a large amount of heavy work was required to build the station. The contractor was required to secure a firm foundation and form subterranean passages under the building for the water to pass after running through the turbines.