Loveland’s first electric light plant was started in 1900 by Lee J. Kelim. He started the plant in his farmer’s mill located at what is now 107-109 West 2nd St. He installed a coal-fired steam boiler and sold excess electricity to the city to light intersections and businesses during evening hours. In 1905 Kelim sold the mill and moved the plant to the corner of 2nd and Railroad, where he built the Loveland Light, Heat and Power Company. Eventually this would become Western Light and Power Company, and then Public Service Company of Colorado, which is a subsidiary of Xcel Inc.
Taxpayers authorized Council to construct a hydroelectric plant in 1914. Charles Viestenz of City Council had lead with the idea at first, but there had been concern that the construction of the plant would raise taxes so high that living in Loveland would become unaffordable. Once it was authorized, the construction of a dam across the Big Thompson River 15 miles west of Loveland was contracted in 1915. The next year, an 827 foot tunnel was built as part of the project.
Work on the hydroelectric plant stopped when World War I began, due to material shortages. After the war was over in 1924, continuing construction on the plant was again a financial burden on the City. But as electric loads and demand were rising, a contract was let to allow the construction of a transmission line. In 1925, the City’s Electric Department began operation from the plant, as well as took over the Public Service Company’s distribution system within the city limits. The year after, the land the plant property was expanded to 400 acres to include picnic areas, trails, and shelters. This area eventually became Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park.
In 1928 the demand for electric service exceeded the capacity of the hydroelectric plant, so an additional generating plant was built at 5th Street and Railroad. To aid peak loads, a diesel engine standby plant was also built this year. The load, including both new plants, was exceeded again in 1937. The City sought supplemental power from the Public Service Company and United States Bureau of Reclamation.
In 1965 needs were still growing, so Loveland, Fort Collins, Longmont, and Estes Park came together to consider a joint generation and transmission facility. They formed Platte River Municipal Power Association which later became Platte River Power Authority.
In 1976 the Big Thompson River experienced a dramatic flood, during which the water flowed an estimated 30,500 cubic feet per second faster than normal. The dam was washed out, approximately 1700 feet of pipeline was destroyed, and the entire hydroelectric dam was washed away. A new efficient power plant was constructed out of the pathway of future floods, and a new flood-resistant dam replaced the one before.
The City of Loveland and the Thompson R2-J School District funded the construction of the Service Center in 1986. It included warehouses and vehicle maintenance shops for the City of Loveland and the School District. The office building housed Loveland Light and Power Department and the Water/Wastewater Department, which is now known as Loveland Water and Power.