The Light Factory. Museum of Energy
Electricity made from coal: When the power plant of the newly established mining company Minero Siderurgica de Ponferrada (MSP) starts operating in 1920, climate change is not an issue. The opposite is true: MSP heralds the beginning of industrialisation in the region, with the power plant symbolising a new, promising technology. The museum installed in it today tells the story of the Light Factory through the eyes of the working people. In a series of brief video clips, they vividly describe their everyday routines and the activities taking place around the plant. What type of coal was mined in the area, how did it get to the power plant, and how was it eventually turned into energy? Questions also include the role that women played in the process. Sounds like the puffing of a steam engine, the smell of lubricating oil and the meticulous restoration of the original buildings and machines make the tour of the coal bunker, boiler house and engine hall an exciting journey back in time to the beginnings of the Spanish energy sector. Interpretation programmes help visitors to understand the environmental impact of coal-based power generation and its effects on the climate.
Iron deposits in the neighbouring Wagner mineral district and coal fields in the Río Sil basin prompted Spanish entrepreneurs and investors to found Minero Siderurgica de Ponferrada (MSP) in October 1918. Henceforth, the company evolves into the dominant economic driver in the northwestern Spanish regions of Laciana and el Bierzo. One mosaic stone is the thermoelectric power plant built in 1919, which initially serves as a power supply for the in-house coal briquette factory and other MSP industrial and administrative facilities. Dating back to this early stage are the chimney and main building, currently housing the museum's offices and cafeteria. From April 1930, the plant also feeds Ponferrada's general power grid. Prior to this, the site was extended by two brick buildings: a boiler house, equipped with German Walther twin boilers, and an engine hall housing initially two turbo alternators. The growing demand for electricity requires additional investments by 1950, including the acquisition of two Babcock Wilcox boilers and a turbine made by Swiss company Brown Boveri (now ABB). Thus, the output is increased to 6,000 and eventually to 13,000 kW.
In 1971, the power plant ceases operation, paying the price for two competing plants in the vicinity. It was not until 2009 that an ambitious restoration project revives the site from its long slumber. The care taken in the accurate conservation and the integration of voices and stories of former employees has earned the museum two prestigious accolades: the European Heritage Awards/Europa Nostra Awards in 2012 and the European Museum of the Year Award in 2015. Today, it has a reputation as being a gem of Spanish industrial heritage. On their tour of the museum, visitors learn a lot about power generation from coal, but also about the industrialisation of the entire region and the significance of the energy sector as one of the country's most important industries.
|Recommended duration of visit:||1 Hours|
|Duration of a guided Tour:||60 Minutes|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||For details see website|
|Infrastructure for Children:|
|Visitor centre on site:||yes|
|Gift and book shop on Site:||yes|
Tuesday - Sunday 10.30am-5.30pm
Tuesday - Sunday 11am-3pm an 4.30-7pm
- Guided tours only
- Guided tours for children