La Malva Hydroelectric Power Plant
La Pola, Somiedu
The beginning of the Asturian hydroelectric power plants dates back to the first decades of the 20th century, being its key milestone the start-up of La Malva power plant.
With more than a century of history, La Malva is one of the most ancient Spanish power plants which continue producing energy. Its building was possible thanks to the constitution of Saltos de Agua de Somiedo in 1913, a company that gives rise to Hidroeléctrica del Cantábrico S.A., one of the main national producing companies, which had José Tartiere y Lenegre, Policarpo Herrero and Narciso Hernández Vaquero among its promoters.
After a few researches and preliminary studies, the hydroelectric power plant was built in 1915, coming into operation in 1917. Erected in the right bank of Somiedo river, in the so-called Cave of la Malva, it is mainly supplied by the flows of the Valle and Saliencia rivers, tributaries of the Somiedo river. It has four alternators. The first two started to operate in 1917 and the other two, in 1924. The turbines and the alternators were supplied by big companies of the electric sector as Escher Wyss & Co and Brown Bovery.
The power plant building, which holds the power generation machinery, is a representative example of the industrial architecture of the beginning of the century. In its façade, it has the company’s anagram, H.C., and the year in which it was built, 1915. It is a building with a very neat design made in masonry with warty ashlar in its jambs, arches, angles and sills. All the foundations are made of concrete, as well as the beams that separate the gaps in the façades. Their large windows flood the inside with light. It consists of two attached industrial units, both with a gabled roof: the first one is used as an engine room and it is lower than the second one, which is organised in four floors and is dedicated to contain electrical equipment. There are also administration offices, workshops and toilets.
La Malva is interesting not only because of the long time it has been in operation, its singularity, the neat design of the power plant building or the technology it has in it (original elements in many cases), but also because of its extraordinary emplacement, in the heart of the of the Somiedo Natural Park.
Natalia Tielve García