In the province of Arauco, 14 kilometers south of Lote, Chivilingo hydroelectric power plant is fighting against the passage of time. In 1896, it was commissioned by Isidora Goieneche, widow Luis Cousino, inaugurated and financed in 1897 in the Coal Mine in Loti.
At that point in history he marked a turning point: he became the first of its kind in Chile, and the second in South America.
And it is currently the oldest hydropower plant in the world.
Of course, the construction was led by the boom of that time. In 1895, the Lote mine had 12 kilometers of underground progress. Until then, minerals were extracted with wheelchairs that dragged the horse.
The only other one is the solution: replace this method with the implementation of an electric traction system.
It was Cousion's dream. And his widow decided to turn it into reality. Before his death, in 1873, Thomas Alba Edison suggested this idea. It was the one who was in charge of his design when his construction was ordered.
In the meantime, its implementation and construction was carried out by the North American company Consolidated Co., while electrical equipment was provided by Schuckert & Co. from Nuremberg in Germany.
The equipment began to arrive in ships at the Port of Lota and were moved by a pulse of 20 June volumes. But in any case, in the existing constructions, the key material is missing: cement.
The local solution was simple and creative: Conil, the land of the Chivilingo River and many … chicken eggs.
This construction, located on a plot of slightly more than five hectares, is located in two Pelton turbines equipped with two alternators of 215 kilowatts (315 horsepower, 400 volts and 360 amps, 50 Hz).
Thus, in 1897, the production and transmission of electricity became the cheapest and most adaptive alternative to mines.
The energy was transmitted through a 10 kV line from 10 kilometers, which led to minerals from Lote. There were several substations in the mine that transformed and distributed electricity, which handled the extraction machines and pumps, and the railway that pulled minerals from a depth of 12 kilometers below the sea.
Although in addition to supplying mines, which were the basis of the economic development of the region, they also fed the city of Lota. This scenario has enabled the development of other industries in the region.
In 1908, in order to prevent problems of water shortage during the summer, a thermal power plant was installed. The plant was part of Chile's Central Interconnection System (SIC) and came to deliver 430 kVh.
It worked for 77 years, until 1974.
Some authorities then, after closing, tried to sell it to the United States, which were very interested in completely disarmament and reorganization in North America, managed by the building's nexus with its manager: Thomas Alba Edison.
From fame to abandonment
The historical value of the project – and partial pressure of Radio Bio Bio at that time – allowed it to be declared a national historical monument in 1990. In addition, in 2004, the World Institute of Electricity Engineers transformed into the World Engineering Mystery.
In 1998, the city of Lota canceled the administration of the location of the Chilean Foundation, which enabled it as a tourist complex.
However, the structure of the plant – which had already suffered from the passage of time – suffered serious damage after the earthquake in February 2010.
Since then, the plant has remained closed until restoration: in May last year it was practically abandoned in ruins. Neither negotiations were successful.
At the moment, the situation is complicated. You can not intervene or improve public investment because it is in charge of private. There is no financial project for the renewal of the national monument.
Currently, 5 hectares are used for summer purposes, where more than 15,000 people of each summer camp are measured from the plant, with constant exposure to a possible collapse.
Yes, it is currently the oldest plant in the world. But a little begins to fall and destroy its history: on Thursday, the roof collapsed.
And the authorities started reacting this Friday.
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