Study Abroad in Northern Italy 2018
Tour of the Riva del Garda Hydropower Plant
Today I had the great opportunity to visit the Riva del Guarda Hydroelectric plant. This unique hydro plant was built between 1924-1925 and employed mostly men that had fought in the First World War. For the Riva plant, 109 kilowatt hours per year demonstrates the energy potential.
According to our tour guide, Italians consume only about 17% of renewables, mostly coming from the other web of 3,250 hydroelectric plants. The rest of consumed energy is coming from burning gas from Russia.
The interactive graphics of how the plant works is always awesome to see because I got an in depot look at how energy transformers, and the pumps work. The power plant is capable of filling an Olympic size swimming pool in one minuet. The pump from the Garda lake to the Ladro lake can empty the same size swimming pool in a short span of two and a half minutes. This rate of extraction is the maximum limit that can be taken from the natural glacier lake. The jet of energy that each power plant uses is also extremely impressive. The high pressure jets are the sole reason why the turbines and shaft rotate.
It was a bit worrisome to learn from our tour guide that the energy produced from the water falling from the slopes is pretty much equivalent to the amount of energy it takes to pump the water back up to lake Ledro. In this case however, technology brought history back to the public when the Pile Dwelling sites were discovered in the more elevated lake Ledro.
Although the Riva del Guarda hydro plant offers power relatively quickly to the Italian citizens at peak times, it now seems to me that it is not as sustainable as I would have previously thought. I hope to return one day and see all the turbines rotating.
Today’s visit to the Riva del Garda hydroelectric plant helped me to further my understanding of hydroelectric power. I was surprised to know that even though Italy is around the size of California, it has around three thousand hydro plants. The front of Riva del Garda’s hydroelectric plant utilizes the same stone as mid evil castles, and has openings, making it less dense. The architecture resembles the new renaissance arch, meaning the tips have no points. Despite it’s fashionable appearance, behind the front wall, the hydro electric plant generates enough water to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool, in almost one minute, meaning around twenty two cubic meters a second are pumped. Although there is potential for the hydroplant to pump more water, it was decided in the 1990s that that was the most water that could be pumped, without harming the surrounding ecosystems. I was also intrigued to learn that in order to cool the turbines, oil is cooled by the mountainous water, cooling the turbines. This process has the potential to be very dangerous because if the oil is not pure or is exposed to oxygen, it could cause an explosion. I especially enjoyed seeing the windows of the hydro electric plant, because they have been preserved from the 1920s, and survived the destruction caused during World War II. Even though the plant is now operated from Trento, I enjoyed visiting the former control room. Additionally, I enjoyed learning about the history of the plant. It was originally constructed after all electricity plants were destructed in World War I. In an effort to rebuild and recover the economy, two engineers from Trento designed the plant, created three tunnels inside the mountain, through the use of explosives. The Riva del Garda hydroelectric plant took two years to build, and many people died during construction, and a memorial was built inside the tunnel to honor the casualties. Overall, I enjoyed this visit, because it engrained the importance and historical significance of hydro electric plants in Italy.
Today we took a tour of the Riva del Garda Hydropower Plant. It was a much smaller power plant that we visited in Santa Massenza. It was also build before the Santa Massenza one as this plant was built in 1920. The architect that built this power plant used the same material as the tower in the center of town to create a more cohesive looking area. He also added lots of windows with arches around them making them look like cathedrals. It was really cool to see how much the outside architecture differed from the inside.
We also learned that while this plant is smaller, the flow it creates from the Garda lake to the ledro lake is 22 meters cubed per second which is enough to fill 1 Olympic pool in 1 minute. They have 4 pelton turbines to extract the greatest amount of energy from the water. They only use the turbines when they need them, so when they are shut off, it means that the supply they have is more than enough to cover the demand of all users. The turbines have 500 rotations in 1 minute when they are on. After visiting I learned that Trentino has so many plants because the humid air streams are channeled into the valleys where they cool down and trigger abundant rain. With all this rain, it makes sense that they would try to get something positive from it. Unfortunately, only about 16% of Italy’s energy comes from hydroelectric power plants. The rest is gas. I hope those numbers will shift in the near future, as gas is really not a renewable energy source and hydroelectricity is.
Today we went to the riva del Garda dolomiti hydrotour plant that was built between 1924-1929. It produces 109kwh per year if working 24/7. The town Pavia can be powered with electricity produced at this power plant (Riva del Garda). The tunnels that carry water from Ledro lake and ponale torrent to the riva del garda power plant turbines is 9,5 km long. There are also 3250 hydro electric plants in Italy and 297 lakes in this region. The length of the headrace channel is 6030 meters and the length of penstock is 815 meters. In 1951 it went through some renovations that added in a pump 1.5 miles long. They let water fall to produce electricity then take some of it to pump it back up. Lake Garda is 52 kilometers long and there are 160,000 olive tree plants on the upper part of riva del Garda. The water stays between 9-10 degrees Celsius during the winter months, with January being the coldest month of the year.
In 1924, thirty years after the inauguration of the small riva plant at gora di ponale, work began on a major hydroelectric power station a few hundred meters north of the Ponale strea, just outside the town. Some facts on the Riva del Garda Hydroelctric Power plant include that it produces 138 thousand Mwh annually, its about 200 meters into the mountain and that water running at 360 kilometers per hour is pumped out of its valves at any on time. At Riva del Garda, two main sets use 4 pelton turbines and a smaller set conveys the water of the Ponale torrent. Inside a turbine, water reaches the rotor via an adjustable system of extremely powerful high pressure jets. The blades are in the shape of a double spoon with a central “knife” that cuts the water steam into symmetrical portions. About 9,500 meters of tunnels and penstocks excavated in the mountain sides make it possible to use the water from the Ledro Lake and the Ponale torrent to generate energy. Once it has activated the turbines, the water is released into the Garda Lake. When demand is necessary, through the same tunnels and penstocks, water can be pumped from the Garda lake and return to the Ledro lake. From the Ledro lake to the Garda lake flow is equal to 22m3/s which is the same as filling 1 Olympic swimming pool in 1 minute and from the Garda Lake to the Ledro Lake the flow would empty 1 Olympic pool in 2.5 minutes! I thought these numbers were just crazy because it really puts into perspective the power and capability that this plant has. The best place for all this energy to go is Pavia which has just over 72 thousand inhabitants and the electricity energy needs of its population can be easily met with the 138 thousand MWh produced annually by the Riva Del Garda power plant. The energy output figures correspond to the amount of energy required by 30 thousand households, by taking into account the average number of Italian family members of 2.4 people. With all the energy that is produced here in Italy and in Trentino it was so surprising to learn that 25% of the world population still doesn’t have electricity. It was humbling to learn that and it helped me think about my energy use and consumption. I loved this visit because all together it helped me put energy usage and production into context!
Today’s visit to the Riva de Garda hydropower plant was a great example of how every “drop in the bucket” counts. Italy has a problem with energy sourcing and therefore relies heavily on any technology that will help them to reduce their reliance on Russia. They do not have any significant deposits of oil or gas and so the use of hydroelectric power is hugely important. Not only does the power plant run in the daytime but also in the night time so there is a constant flow of energy. This shows the great benefits of creating more hydro-plants in a smart and sustainable ways to increase the use of renewable energy and decrease the worlds reliance on fossil fuels. Every drop counts and the U.S. has plenty of free flowing water sources that could potentially be used as sources for clean energy harvesting. There is definitely a need for the diversification of energy sources so that other countries can’t hold power production against a country that relies on them.
Today I got to visit the Riva del Guarda Hydroelectric plant. This was built as an architectural cathedral as well as a power plant, with high ceilings and wooden doors and a painting of the patron saint of miners. Despite being very similar to the previous power plant we visited, it had some noticeable differences. For one, it now functioned under largely educational purposes.. But it was not made to look like an industry, and much of the mine was left as bare stone in contrast to the concrete that was used to mask the previous facility. The main function of this facility was in auxiliary energy, it would assist coal power plants as they were unable to provide enough energy to the populace during peak hours, this facility would provide some energy within three minutes, as well as purchase excess energy because unlike other power plants it was able to store it for future resale purposes. It was unique, and very interesting to see another design for a hydroelectric power plant.
Today we went to the Riva del Garda Hydropower Plant and were able to tour the facility as we did at the Massenza plant. I was interested to see the comparisons between these two plants as we were fortunate enough to see them two days apart. I was surprised to learn that there were over 3,000 hydropower plants in Italy; it put into perspective how powerful the plants must be in just the Trentino region to produce so much of Italy’s energy. I also enjoyed how interactive this plant was compared to the other one; I feel like I’ve had a hard time grasping how the plants really work, but the demonstrations of the different steps in the process really helped formulate a picture in my mind.
After the plant we had the opportunity to wander through Riva del Garda, which was absolutely beautiful. I love these little beach towns, and I was glad to be able to see another one that had a slightly different feel to it. We fed the ducks with the locals for over an hour and had even gathered a little crowd by the end; everyone here is so friendly and welcoming!
Today we visited the Hydroelectric plant at Riva Del Garda, and while it was similar to the other one that we visited, this one was built in 1924 instead of 1950. I really liked the projections that played on the walls. My favorite part was at the end of the tunnel we got to look up into the old water pipes and we got to see a projection of running water going through the pipes. I also really liked learning more about turbines and how they are used to convert kinetic energy into mechanical energy. I was also very surprised to learn how the pumps could fill an Olympic sized swimming pool on 2.5 minutes. Through these tours through the hydroelectric plants, it really makes me more aware of how dependent I am on electricity, especially when Carmen, our tour guide, reiterated how it’s everywhere and how it’s almost inescapable.
Today was another beautiful day in Torbole, and we started it with a short bus ride over to nearby Riva Del Garda on the opposite corner of the northern shore of Lake Garda. Once in Riva Del Garda, we took a short walk over to the Riva Del Garda Hydroelectric power plant for a tour of the plant. This plant is very similar in many ways to the Santa Massenza plant that we visited a couple days ago, in that it uses water from nearby lakes which all are basins where alpine water collects. The generators at the Riva plant however are a little smaller, and there are only two generators, so subsequently it produces less as well. The plant produces about 109 kilo watt hours per year, which is enough to power the Italian city of Pavia with a population of 72,000 people. The tour of the plant was much more interactive as well today, as there were much more demonstrations of exactly how the kinetic energy from the water was turned into mechanical energy which could be used for electricity. It was also really cool to learn how when the plant opened and started draining water from nearby Lake Ledro, about 10,000 sticks were discovered when the water level rose which were sticks from an ancient pile-dwelling civilization that lived there hundreds of years ago. It was cool because as our tour guide explained, it was an instance where thanks to technology, they discovered history. Another interesting difference about this plant compared to Santa Massenza is that the architecture was designed to be much more pleasing to the eyes of the people of nearby Riva Del Garda, and so besides having and very pleasing outside appearance, the transformers used for the plant also were placed inside the building as well so they were not visible. After both of our visits to Santa Massenza and the Riva hydropower plants, its clear to see that every hydropower plant within Trentino plays an important role in powering the nation of Italy while also producing this energy sustainably. These two plants are part of a larger system of over 3,000 hydroelectric power plants in Italy, and as our tour guide explained, every ounce of energy that they can generate is important, which is why there is always part of the plant running.
After our visit to the plant, we ended at around noon and had the rest of the day to explore the beautiful town of Riva Del Garda afterwards. Jumping in the water of Lake Garda and cooling of on this warm day was one of my favorite parts of this trip as it was scenery unlike anywhere else in the world with the amazing mountains surrounding the beautiful lake.
Besides the fact that hydroelectric power is amazing and should be used as often as possible, I think one of the most interesting facts of the day was how “touristy” the plant was. The fact that they have guides dedicated to giving tours as well as posters and pictures describing the purpose of the plant and the various mechanisms inside demonstrate the big role tourism plays in this region. Of course, hydroelectric power itself is also important to this region as well as Italy in general since there are over 3, 000 hydroelectric power plants across the country that supply approximately 16% of the needed energy. I found it fascinating to learn that these lakes came from glaciers that fell many years ago, although, in my opinion, the water doesn’t actually feel that cold. I wish there were more lakes in the US, especially in Southern California, that we could use for this purpose. It would, hopefully, aid in reducing the pollution in the region. I also enjoyed being reminded that one type of energy can be transformed into another if one is willing to be creative and work hard to find a solution.
On today’s excursion we had a tour of the Riva del Garda hydropower plant. One of the most interesting things that I learned from today’s visit was that there are 3,250 plants all across Italy, which is very impressive considering that these are very environmentally conscious and they were created so long ago when it seemed that people did not think twice about the environment. Although, just from being on this trip, I feel that I have realized that Italy as a country has always seemed to be in tune with the environment and used its natural resources in a positive way. There may have been some altercations that they made to the environment but in the end it was still resourceful. This specific plant is much smaller than Santa Massenza but it still creates 109 kilowatts per hour per year. Also like Santa Massenza they get their water from the surrounding lakes but with this plant when they were draining the lake for the water they found over 10,000 poles from the pile dwellings and a canoe which was a huge historical finding. Unlike the other power plant (Santa Massenza) this one was built with everything on the inside and the outside looked like a regular building but it had the four pipes that looked like it came out of the back of the building but they were hard to see because of the trees. It is interesting to see how well Italy uses their natural resources to create something that people can not live without. I look forward to hearing about what more Italy has in store for its future and the future of nature.
Today was awesome. Hanging out in the Riva Del Garda area was so much fun. The atmosphere of the city itself was so historical. Although there were many tourists around I feel as if I was able to experience it through a different lense, especially since I was able to go to the hydroelectric power plant with the class. The way that they had the interactive exhibits set up was so helpful. I felt as if I was able to learn a lot about the way that the plants work and how they pump water back into the lakes. I also was interested to learn that 10,000 pile dwellings were discovered at the very beginning stages of the plant. When I think about it, it’s crazy to know that the plant was developed in the 20s when technology wasn’t even close to the way it is today. All in all, I learned a plethora of new things today that really stuck with me.
Today we had another opportunity to visit one of the Dolomiti Group’s hydroelectric plants out in Riva del Garda. Compared to the tour we received at Santa Massenza, the tours were vastly different; the Riva del Garda plant was more equipped to inform and educate in the ways of hydroelectricity. The Riva del Garda power plant operates at exactly half of the capacity of Santa Massenza and has only four pelton turbines within the plant. The majority of the facility was centered around tourism and, even though it was a fully functional power plant, the entire building was structured around education those interested and providing a positive experience. In particular, the demonstration of the the screw pump that demonstrated how the plant gets water back into the surrounding lakes was extremely interesting to me as, in Santa Massenza, they never discussed the methods in which they used to pump water back up. Everything within Riva del Garda was interactive and provided a deeper perspective into the hydroelectric power business. There was only one pump there that operated 24/7 and the rest were only operational during peak hours of the day (10 am-6 pm) and instead of running all of the turbines constantly and have excess, they allow the natural gas power plants to produce at a higher capacity and buy their excess and then store that. This was interesting to me because it showed that all of the Dolomiti Energia power plants operate at different frequencies considering that Santa Massenza operated at 125% of their needed capacity and then sold their excess around Italy and Europe. Overall the visit was informative and educational and I really enjoyed the opportunity to view the differences between power plants within the Trentino province.
Our adventures were fairy minimal today, we went into the Riva del Garda Hydropower plant. This particular plant was built in 1924-1925 and is one 3,250 power plants in Italy. Trentino is one of Italy’s most prolific regions in the hydroelectric sector. Something that really stood out to me was the water cycle and its relationship with the cycle of the power station. The water cycle does not have a definitive end or beginning, if you want to think of one it could potentially be the oceans and the seas. Then gets transported higher into the atmosphere through evaporating of liquid water to vapor. When transported into the atmosphere the vapor may condense and produce clouds and then rain, snow and hail. After this underground waters and surface water flows are formed from the fusion of snowing rain underground. Now bringing the power station into the cycle the pumped storage hydroelectric power stations such as Riva del Garda move the water between two different reservoirs, one higher in elevation and the other one lower in elevation. The two are connected with a set of pipes that ultimately aid in the production of the energy. The water from the lower elevation reservoir is pumped into the higher reservoir which is then filled with water, creating potential energy that is ready to be transferred to kinetic energy. The kinetic energy that is being created in the drop down in the power station cycle and the is finally ready to be transformed into electrical energy. I found it interesting that there are two cycles that work together in this creation of “clean” energy.
Some fun facts that I picked out from this tour today was that it was two engineers and one architect that built this specific plant. The architect used the same stones of the hydroelectric power plant as the medieval castle that is within the town. There were lost of windows that were all over the building to make it look roe open and have a lighter facade. I thought it was slightly comical how there was so much precision and though into the design of a hydro power plant.
What really amazed me today was the distance and trajectory of the pipelines that began pumping water into the power plant almost a century ago. It was really interesting to compare the Santa Massenza plant to the Riva Del Garda plant because of time difference in which they were both built. The Riva Del Garda
hydroelectric plant was built nearly 30 years before and the engineering required to build it was so advanced. Of course, the Riva Del Garda plant does not use the lines that run outside the plant any longer, but it is important to recognize what the plant was able to accomplish in the 1920’s. Not only does the engineering showcase advancements in technology, but it shows the different investments that had to be made in order to finish the project. This being said, it is apparent that the investments made were returned in full and then some. It is crazy to think about people climbing a mountain while constructing such a large pipeline in the early 20th century.
This visit built on our previous visit to another hydroelectric power plant run by the same company. As an aside, I think it’s great that our daily activities, concept wise, have been building on each other. This plant specifically was unique because history and sustainability were directly intertwined. This plant has been in operation since 1929 and is still in service and uses the water from the waters of lake Ledro, a natural lake formed in the ice age. The force of the falling water is transferred into electricity that powers the region. The multi-stage pump was very interesting to see! The process of releasing the water back into the environment was super cool to hear about. It fascinates me that they can take the water from Lake Ledro, run it through their process, and return it to lake Garda without any contamination. This is hopefully an example the US can better adopt and a step for us to move towards more green energy practices. I am really looking forward to sharing my new education with my colleagues back home!
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