Study Abroad in Northern Italy 2018
Visit to the Santa Massenza Hydroelectric Power Plant and Centrale Fies
The trip to the Santa Massenza hydroelectric plant was surprisingly informational on the negative consequences of implementing change to the environment for energy. It was stated to the group that by the lake in which the hydro-plant is located there used to be a lot of tourism but since the hydro-plant became operational it no longer is. This is because the hydro-plant draws water from neighboring mountain water streams which are cold and it is then released into the neighboring lake where tourist used to swim in. The water in the lake was very warm and the landscape was different but now since cold water is released into the lake from the mountain it is too cold to swim. On the flip side the hydropower plant is very productive and is Italy’s biggest hydropower plant. The hydropower plant is located in the Trentino region and therefore supplies 125% of the needed energy to the area, therefore there is a surplus of energy that is regularly sold to both southern Italy’s national grid and other nearby European countries. They also regularly feel a responsibility to give back to the community and often donate millions of dollars’ worth of energy to local communities (ex. hospitals, schools, ect). The end result is that there is an overall benefit to the province because it not only supplies the Trentino region with plentiful energy, but the hydropower plant creates jobs and other opportunities for the local communities. By having this plant there is a great deal of clean energy and it sets a great example for other neighboring provinces to look into hydroelectric power as a potential energy source to use.
Today’s visits to the hydroelectric plants were inspiring. I never realized how much energy water could create. At the first hydroelectric plant we visited in Santa Massenza, they are able to make enough energy to support 150,000 families of three! That’s incredible! I wish it was easier to make sustainable energy around the world, especially in the United States. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to justify spending crazy amounts of money and destroying parts of nature in order to build something that should work for decades. I also found it interesting that the Santa Massenza Hydroelectric Power Plant was built by miners who spoke a variety of dialects, but they all banded together to form one society. I always find it interesting when many people from different places can band together to create something.
I also found the idea of turning the still working power plant into a kind of tourist attraction fascinating. Both of the places we visited did this, Centrale Fies taking it more extreme in some ways, but the Santa Massenza Hydroelectric Power Plant also showed signs of tourism since they provided guided tours and visuals made just for tourists. For me, this demonstrates how much of a role tourism plays in this region.
As our time in Ponte Arche came to an end, looking back at the short time spend in the small town is a little saddening, as I really enjoyed the time we had there, and hope to be able to come back and visit the small town in the future. So along we went after our final breakfast at Hotel Posta, boarding the bus to our first stop on the way to Torbole – the Santa Massenza hydroelectric power plant. Opening in the 1950’s, Santa Massenza was the most powerful power plant in not only Italy but all of Europe as well. Nestled up alongside the southern slope of Monte Gazza, the entrance to the power plant looks more like the entrance to a mineshaft than it does a hydropower plant, but after a 400 meter walk straight into the side of Monte Gazza and around a slight turn to the right, the massive turbines used to generate electricity become visible. The plant generates around 640 Gwh of energy a year, which is enough energy to light the Eiffel tower for around 82 years. The plant is owned and operated by the Dolomiti Energia Group, which is one of the largest multi-utility companies in Italy, who also has always had a sense of corporate social responsibility combined in their business plan. Most of Dolomiti Energia’s other sources of energy also are operated in the area of Trentino province, who as a region, is a major exporter of hydroelectric power and also one of the biggest producers of clean energy in Italy. Santa Massenza is considered 100 percent clean energy because there is essentially no waste in the process of producing power at the plant, and this is in large part due to the geographical luck that the Trentino region has for producing hydropower. With an large supply of water through rivers and lakes located in the Alps, this region is a prime location in Europe for hydro facilities to be located. Taking advantage of this, the Santa Massenza plant siphons water from a structured system of penstocks, which is a channel or pipe for conveying water to a hydroelectric power station or waterwheel. The water comes from nearby Lake Molveno which we visited a couple days ago through a tunnel around 55 to 60 kilometers long, where it then passes through hydraulic nozzles which speed the water up to around 225 mph to generate power. In terms of sustainability, the power plant has the ability to pump water backup into Lake Molveno, using the in times of low water levels and anticipated higher consumption, which can help generate more power later on. Like other places we visited such as the mines near Darzo, the plant is a key economic asset for providing jobs to the people of the surrounding area, and after WWI, this was especially important for providing hundreds of construction jobs to Italians.
After our tour of the power plant, we took a visit to the Central Fies Project, which is a historic power plant located near Dro, that has been converted into place for performing arts. To see how the artists there decided to keep the architecture of the power plant the same was pretty cool, as you wouldn’t ever imagine that a old hydroelectric power plant could be converted into such a place. The reuse of the plant is a great example of how old infrastructure could reused and repurposed so that the building was not put to waste, which I think is a testament to the conservative nature of the Trentino region. It was also interesting because many power companies would not be so willing to sell their land to a performing arts project, because land is expensive and a highly regarded asset for power companies.
Today we left Ponte Arche for good and set out for the Santa Massenza hydroelectric power plant and then onto Centrale Fies to visit the unique set-up they had regarding hydroelectric power and a shared space for artists to convene. The Santa Massenza power plant was an incredible spectacle and what impressed me most was the fact that the cavern inside the mountain that housed the turbines was excavated in the 1950s. The Dolomiti Energia group owns 43 hydroelectric power plants across the Trentino province, the Santa Massenza being the most powerful producing 400,000 kw of energy and providing for 150,000 people. The fact that Dolomiti produces 125% of the needed energy capacity for Trentino and then sells the remaining 25% of their created power to the rest of Italy and Europe makes the operation they run seem even more impressive considering that it really only consists of pipelines from the glaciers to various power plants that rotate specific turbines that in turn create energy for an entire province and then some. The most exciting part about the entire operation to me was the sustainability of it compared to the energy production that is utilized in other parts of the world, such as Russia with nuclear power or the United States with the use of natural gas. The Dolomiti group uses only water that, once it has served its purpose, is flushed back into the surrounding lakes. There is no real harm to the environment other that the construction that surrounded the power plants themselves and the pipelines that bring water to and from the lakes.
After the Santa Massenza hydroelectric power plant, we then went to the Centrale Fies for lunch and a tour of the facilities. It was really cool that a hydroelectric power plant can be converted into a space for local artists to gather and share in their work. It was a true testament to the community efforts that the Dolomiti Group has put into the province of Trentino because that really isn’t something that you see in the United States as public entities tend to only focus on making a profit off of the people rather than giving back to the community at the end of the day.
Today’s visit to the hydro plant was very informative. I enjoyed understanding the process of how water is converted into energy. Starting as precipitation, water rains into the lake, and then is sucked into the energy plant through a turbine. After, the peloton begins to rotate from the water pressure, energy is created, and then, energy is created. Because the hydro plant was created during World War I, the plant was built into the mountain, in order to ensure it’s safety. However construction of the plant was not entirely safe, and in fact, the construction of the power plant resulted in over thirty deaths. Unfortunately, this was considered a success because typical hydro plant constructions included about one death for every kilometer built. Overall, this visit helped me gain further insight into the construction of hydro plants, increasing both my respect, and interest, in this innovative form of renewable energy.
We started our day by packing up and leaving Hotel Posta in Ponte Arche to go to the Dolomiti Hydro tour in the territory of Santa Madsenza. It is the most powerful of the more than 200 hydroelectrical plants and it was built in 1950. It was the most powerful hydroelectric plant at the time of after World War One at 400,000 kilowatts. This equals giving energy to 150,000 families of 3 people. The hydroplant in Riva Del Garda powers 117,000 kw Which gives 27,000 homes power. 55 km of tunnels were dug into the mountains. They chose to make this hydroplant into the mountain because they were afraid of bombings happening since it was after the war. Lake Molveno is a natural lake and so is Santa Madsenza lake. It is 700 meters from molveno to Santa massenza dug into the mountains. Inside the tunnels it stays 18 degrees Celsius year around. It took 4 years to build power plant and 10 years to create 25 miles into the mountains. There were 33 deaths of the minors working there in the creation of the tunnels. They used bombs and explosives to create the tunnels. Then we went to the Centrale Fies project which is an active power station and a center for production of the performing arts. It works all year around and hosts a big theater festival every year in July. Just one turbine is still active but In the past there were multiple that used to run. We toured most of the space where there were spaces for exhibitions, conferences, and work shops for artists of all kinds. It was taken over and renovated in 1999 and throughout most of the structure it was clear they preserved the natural architect in much of the space. It was abandoned for a long time since its creation of the power station in 1911. The festival that now takes place here actually used to be in the old town near by starting in 1981, and the artistic and general managers created the event when they were 19-20 years old. One very unique characteristic to this power plant is that at the time of its creation the area of Trentino was under different rule and is why it had different architecture than other power stations. They paid attention to ascetic not just functioning of this power plant.
On our final day in Ponte Arche we went to visit the Santa Massenza Hydroelectric Power Plant. There are actually around two hundred hydroelectric power plants in Italy, since they have these large mountains an a lot of different lakes with various altitudes which it makes it an ideal area to have hydroelectric power plants. This specific hydroelectric power plant is still in use today, and was opened in the 1950’s. It took four years to build the power plant and about ten years to build the tunnels surrounding the power plant. Prior to the hydroelectric power plant the lake was a very tourist driven destination because of its great beauty, but after they decided to build it people stopped coming. Although this is a negative, the town was a low income area. Once the plant was beginning to be built it created jobs for these low income homes and provided them with better paying jobs, so that is the give and take in this situation. This hydroelectric power plant gives energy to 150,000 families, and has enough power for not only the region it provides power to but a surplus of twenty five percent. The extra energy cannot be stored so they transfer it to be used in other national power plants. It produces 3.5 billion watts per minute, and provides 300 million euros per yer for the government to invest in the community. That is was a very interesting aspect to me, that the power plant is giving back to the community as well. Within the power plant they covered most of the walls making it seem as though you were not actually in a mountain but just in a warehouse or something of that nature. The architect that designed the power plant wanted to leave a bare wall, in order to remind the workers where they were. A reminder that we need to use water consciously and that we do not waste it. I think that was a very powerful way t help people remember that the nature was here before us and we need to be reminded to take care of it and use it wisely. I also think that seeing the pro’s and con’s behind the sacrifice of building this hydroelectric power plant is really important, because even though there might be some negative aspect the positive ones could outweigh them.
Today we visited a hydro plant called Dolomiti Energia which was actually made inside of mountain so we entered through a tunnel that lead into the mountain where the actual hydro plant was located. This specific location, out of the 200 other locations, was built after the war in 1950. This hydro plant gives energy to about 150,000 families in Italy and produces 125% of hydroelectric energy which means that it is in surplus by 25%. With the 3.5 billion kilowatts of energy that is produced by the plant it is used to light and run hospitals and schools and other facilities around Italy. This hydro plant was beneficial to the community and its environment because it uses a natural resource to create energy and the women giving us the tour today specifically said that we need to be more conscious with water and not take advantage of what we are given. A way that it helped the community is that it created jobs for out of work miners and it created a large economic growth in the town. I think that the hydro power plant is beneficial but it also has some issues that come along with it because they needed to destroy the environment in order to use the environment so in a way it is kind of like a back handed compliment. I do think that they are a good idea and are very beneficial and I believe that there should be more active ones. Today was very informative because this was the first time I have heard of a hydro power plant and the way that they were able to figure out how to manufacture a giant machine like that is truly brilliant.
Today we checked out of Hotel Posta in Ponte Arche and went to see two hydroelectric power plants. I had never been to one before and the two we went to today were very different from one another. The Trentino region has over 200 hydroelectric power plants. They have so many because the mountainous area is so good for building them due to all the lakes and rivers that run through it.
The first one we went to was the one in Santa Massenza. It is the most powerful hydroelectric power plant in Italy. Built in 1950 (after WWII) miners spent 10 years digging into the side of the mountain in order to build this plant. It produces about 400,000 kilowatts of energy a year. They use three different types of turbines: Pelton (for water from high elevations), Francis (for water from moderate elevations), and Caplan (for water from no elevation). Pelton is the turbine type that is used most in this region due to the high elevation of the mountain rivers and lakes. The incoming water hits the knife of the turbine and then fills its spoons causing it to rotate rapidly and create energy. the energy is then transferred at different tensions to over 150,000 families around Italy.
The second power plant we visited today is not as active as they used to be. They only have one active turbine and we did not get to actually see it today. Instead we learned about what the community has done with the extra space that used to contain the rest of the active turbines. The space is now used as a place for the community to hold performances, festivals, and art exhibitions. Artists and actors from all over the world come to participate in these activities. The power plant was actually build in 1911 when that region still belonged to the Austrian Empire, so it was very interesting to see the how the architecture style differed between the two plants. After the plant became mostly inactive, the community was not sure what to do with the space, so it went through a phase of abandonment were squatters would stay. I think it was a great idea to open it up as almost a fine arts outreach center for the not only the community but the rest of the world.
Today’s visit to the hydroelectric plants was a very unique experience. At the Santa Massenza Hydroelectric Power Plant with HydroTourDolomiti I learned how profitable this industry can be. This specific plant was built in the 1950s and is the most powerful plant in Italy and has the ability to give energy to 150,000 families of 3 people!! Isn’t that awesome? It was great to see that this company and community isn’t wasting water. When the tour guide said “we need to use water, not throw it away. We need to be conscious! It’s necessary for human, animals & plants!” that really stuck with me.
Today was extremely interesting. I loved learning about the history that fell before and during the creation of the hydro power plants. It was interesting to learn that the first hydro power plant we visited was more of a tourist attraction when it first came about. I really liked all of the pictures used at the first power plant as well as the simulations. It made the experience even more scholastic and caused me too to take even more information away from the tour. The province of Trentino produces a plethora of energy and it was cool to see how they give back to the community and even pump more water back into the lake if they don’t need it. To me, this really exposed the culture of Italy and Europe as a whole. I’m extremely excited to explore Garda lake and the surrounding areas. It’s so beautiful here!
Today I had the awesome experience of visiting the Dolomiti energia hydroelectric plant in Santa Massenza. While inside the hydroelectric plant, I was able to clearly envision how the mechanics of the plant work due to the interactive videos that were being projected on the pipes. The several educational videos that were shown made me fully understand how the water makes its way down the to the plant and also how the water is able to rotate the turbines. It’s awesome to see the biggest producer of sustainable energy in the Dolomiti energia group in action. The Santa Massenza hydro plant was opened on the twenty third of October in the year 1955. At the time of its construction, it was considered the most powerful energy producing plant in the entire E.U. The power plant produces the energy sustainably by converting the energy of falling water (kinetic energy) into the 16 turbines. Once the turbines are spinning, the energy is transported into the huge transformers and then converted into what we see as electrical power. It would be awesome to see a hydroelectric plant that is not a half a mile into a mountain, rather have it placed next to the water in order to eliminate such the environmental impact like the Santa Massenza power plant.
I was amazed by the location of the Dolomiti Energia hydroelectric powerplant today. Aside from the HUGE turbines that we got to look at up-close, the mountain that still resided at the end of the plant really highlighted the message that I took away from our visit. The images of hikers, kayakers, running water, and mountain bikers that flowed across the mountain range conveyed the importance of the power plants purpose. After learning that the plant donates energy to hospitals and schools in the Trentino providence, it was evident that the culture of the company does not place itself above the people that they are working for. To me, this really sets Italy apart from America. The Centrale Fies showcased that as well. Funding and supporting projects and aspects in the Trentino community is not an idea that American energy companies would jump towards. Today’s visit was extremely eye opening because it exposed me to a corporate companies ability to support the people whom they are supplying.
Today we took the Santa Massenza hydroelectric power plant, I’ve never visited a power plant before but I was very interested in learning more about it because I live close to one in San Ofere. I really liked how this power plant was sustainable as it ran on water and not coal or oil. It was built in 1950 and gives energy to over 1,000 families and has a surplus of 25% energy. With this extra energy, the facility donates it to different institutions. The plant was built inside of a mountain and has curves– a precaution in case of a bombing.
I really enjoyed learning the history of the power plant but also seeing the architecture. Throughout the tour, massive grey brick archways surrounded us and certain projections (like fish) played along the actual mountainside, which was preserved.
Over time, a new concept became critical for the power plant and that was minimum water flow. In the past, the hydro plant would drain all of the water from lakes, destroying the surrounding ecological systems. However, by creating a minimum water flow, it would prevent the lakes from drying up and I really liked how they incorporated this change to better their sustainability efforts.
Today I was able to go to the hydroelectric plant, Santa Massenza.
The power plant was built in 1946, and created as both a useful and innovative technology as well as an aesthetic piece. The water used the turbines to spin 6 times per second. The tunnel was 1/2 a mile into a mountain, and the architect intended to preserve the idea that the power plant came from within the mountain, and did so by including an artistic project that showed the necessity of water. The artist wanted to show that we should not waste water, and portrayed exampled of the necessity in; a fish swimming, man fishing, animals drinking, and more. Overall I thought the tunnel was an incredible example of how we can coexist with nature by utilizing natural forces like gravity with water.
Today we had the opportunity to visit a running hydro electric power plant as well as an old hydro electric power plant that has now been converted into a community arts center. The Santa Messenza Hydro electric power plant has a lot of interesting facts that I was personally surprised to learn. The two facts that stood out the most to me was that the plant has a production of 125% hydroelectric energy which means that they have surplus of 25%. With that extra 25% they donate to the region of Trentino by giving free energy to places such as libraries public parks etc. I thought that to be very interesting because as Professor Doran said, that is very uncommon in the United States because share holders are obviously greedy with their money and potential income. I was glad to hear that the plant is a part of the communities of Trentino and that they contribute in a positive way instead of negatively like a lot of people might think of power plants doing. The second most interesting fact that I learned about the Messenza hydroelectric power plant is that it has enough energy to power a train to Rome 165,000 times. This is just puts in context how much power that this plant is capable of producing. Trentino as a region is already the biggest exporter of hydroelectric power so to know that the place we visited today was one of the biggest contributors to that was awesome to learn. We even got a tour of the plant! We were able to see the three different turbines (Pelton, Francis, and Kaplan) work at full capacity. The tour inside was a great learning experience because they had a lot of videos and simulations to really express exactly how the power plant worked in the past and today. Some of the videos included a short video on the history of its construction and a video on a how a drop of water from the highest elevation makes it to their power plants. Some of the simulations included a projection of how the turbine is working inside of the machine and what happens when someone in the region needs electricity. The last and most impactful things that we saw on the tour of the most was the mountain wall that was left bare by the architect when it was being constructed. This wall was a reminder to the workers that they are inside of a mountain and that we have to use water consciously and not just throw it away. It essentially was a constant reminder to everyone inside the plant that we are all a part of nature and we have to work with it not against it. I believe that was a great message to leave with and I’m very glad we had the opportunity to visit such a powerful place!
Today we went to the Santa Massenza Hydroelectric power plant. It was interesting to present on the historic plant in Centrale Fies and then learn so much about the most powerful plant in the region.
Hearing about how much power the plant produces per year was truly eye-opening; it was said that he plant provides power to 150,000 families of three. It was also said that this means the water used to generate its power could fill an Olympic-sized pool in 30 seconds. It was also interesting to find out that trentino has such a surplus of energy and that they give it back to the families that need it, and store it in other circumstances. I am again impressed by the differences I’ve already seen in this region alone compared to the efforts being done in the United States. I wish that everyone could take this course and speak with the many passionate people we’ve met.
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