The Story about the Flørli Power Plant.
“The steelworks that, we are happy to say, never came into being.”
Flørli is a place where the conditions for power production are very good. The fall from the lake Flørlivatnet to the sea level is 740 meters, it is a plant with the second highest fall ever built in Norway.
The area of Flørli, with mountain areas and the lake, was bought in 1914 by a businessman from Stavanger, Einar Meling, for 16.000 crowns.
A/S Flørli Kraft- og Elektrosmelteverk was founded in 1916, with a share capital of one million crowns. A production of 12000 hp was planned, and an agreement was made with Röchlingische Eisen- und Stahlwerke in Duisburg, Germany. The German firm was to receive and sell the products at a price which at least exceeded the production costs. Today it is difficult to understand where place could be found for a big steelworks on the steep cliffs by the fiord. However, at an early stage some thick stone foundations were built next to the water. Probably they were meant for the steelworks building.
A/S Flørli got a concession on the 16th of November, 1916. By then the building was in full swing. But even though the building process went according to plan, the world situation changed dramatically. The Germans took a keen interest in steel for arm production, but soon the war situation changed, resulting in the collapse of the steel market. Success for one party easily means failure for another. The Lysefjord, many people are glad to say, never got its steel works.
The Building Period
Even though the conditions for electricity production in Flørli were favourable, the building of dams and a water pipeline in this area was to cost much toil and sweat. A lot of equipment had to be brought up to the lake, 740 meters above the sea level. That job had to be done by human power. Only some years after the work had started rails were laid for trolleys to bring equipment and people from the fiord to the mountain top.
Many tales about brave deeds date from this period. Most well-known were the strong Helmikstøl brothers. They are said to have carried 135 kilo each on their back uphill.
A little society is created at Flørli
The first things needed at Flørli were a solid quay and a small power plant providing energy for the construction works. As time went on, provisional lodgings were put up by the fiord as well as on the mountain. Half-way up the hill is Flørlistølen. This came to be a base or starting point for those who brought materials and equipment by horse up to Flørlivatnet.
In 1916 the number of people employed at the construction works was 119. There was no telephone connection with the outside world, and many feared what could happen if anybody became sick or injured. It was suggested to employ a nurse or another person who could help in critical situations. “If an accident happens, we are helpless. Contacting a doctor will be impossible.” However: In spite of big risks, the will on the part of the employer was little. Nothing was done to improve these things.
Flørli got its own shop by the quay, and many of the workers lived in the small lodgings together with their family. The conditions must have been difficult both for the children and for the grown-ups. One knows that as many as 47 persons were living in 12 small rooms. The summer of 1917 the working force was at its height: 142 persons were at that time employed at the construction works.
The water pipeline
From the power plant by the fiord up to the dam in Ternevatnet a water pipeline was to be built. The pipe was to be buried in concrete, fastened to the rock. In order to carry out this work rails were laid up the hill, and a powerful (crane/machine) pulled trolleys uphill. In this connection many problems turned up. On one occation he (crane) failed, causing a trolley with nine persons on it to rush downhill at full speed. The men managed to jump off in time, but it is said that from that day on some of the workers refused to mount the trolley. Wooden stairs were built along the rails. Today the stairs consist of 4444 steps, being the longest of its kind in the world.
Fight against the nature as well as the weather.
The construction work was carried out continuously throughout the year, but in winter snow created big problems. After Easter 1917 the weather was so bad in the mountains that work could be done just 3 or 4 days a week. During the worst periods the men had to stay in their sheds ten days in a row. This meant economic difficulties for those men paid by the hour. The result was that the employer agreed to pay 5 crowns a day during such idle periods.
In February 1918 there was an awfully strong snow storm which ruined the electric lines. By Litle Flørlivatnet a snow drift, eight meters thick over the shed roof caused the roof to give in. The men had to move in the middle of the night to another shed, and to get out from there they had to dig their way through the snow drift. During the long winter some working teams were fully occupied shuffling snow!
Electricity to Stavanger
In 1918 all electricity produced in Flørli was sold to Stavanger Elektrisitetsverk, and the the Flørli company hoped to earn quite a lot of money from their power production. This, however, turned out not to be the case. Because of sudden changes on the finance market the production costs were higher than expected. The company got new loans, but they also meant new costs. In 1928 the debts amounted to 5,7 million crowns, and the company was in fact bankrupt. The banks which had leant the money, were themselves in deep trouble.
In 1925 Flørli A/S wanted to sell their industry to the city of Stavanger. The times were bad, however, and agreement was not achieved until two years later. In 1927 the power plant was eventually sold to Stavanger Elektrisitetsverk for 3,75 million crowns, which was about half the sum originally suggested. For 25 years to come, then, Flørli was to be Stavangers most important source of energy.