The little village of Älvkarleby, located a mile or two from the mouth of the Dala River is home to both technology of yesteryear and solutions of the future. The hydro power plant from 1915 is from an era when knowledge of electricity was developed and the discovery of alternating current took place, making it possible to transfer electricity along power lines over long distances.
This was high-tech and major focus was placed on the architectonic design of the plant. Both the machine hall and the switchgear building have a national romantic style and give the impression of a medieval castle, with steep roofs and facades clad with hand-moulded, strongly-fired bricks.
The construction of the hydro power plants was a major step forward for Swedish industry. Älvkarleby was of major significance in the industrialisation of all the central regions of Sweden when the power grid was expanded. Many mills and ironworks were powered from here and there was even enough electricity to electrify the towns Uppsala, Västerås, Gävle and Enköping.
Five turbines operate in the original turbine hall and, at the end of the 80s, a sixth unit was installed to give the plant a combined output totalling 125 MW.
Continued decisive role
Today the Älvkarleby power plant has another significance compared to one hundred years ago.
"It still of course has to generate renewable electricity but now in the role of a regulator in an energy system with mostly an increasing share of wind power generation," says Monica Nordlund, at Vattenfall Hydro.
A stone's throw from the power plant is Vattenfall's research and development laboratory. It performs advanced three-dimensional computer simulations of different hydro power plants, while also building exact models of the real thing.
"In spite of advanced computer simulations, nothing beats physical models. A model can monitor how flows, waves, whirlpools and water levels are expected to behave before large-scale builds are erected," says Jonas Wilde, who is in charge of the laboratory.
The Älvkarleby laboratory is the only one of its kind in Sweden that can manage to build and conduct tests on these types of models. It not only receives assignments from Vattenfall but also from other power companies, universities and international customers. The 280 square-metre large model of Slussen in Stockholm was national headline news in 2012.
As well as Älvkarleby celebrating a century in June, Porjus in the Lule River was 100 years earlier this year. Vattenfall's oldest hydro power plant Olidan in the Göta River was inaugurated in 1910.
Watch the video of the inauguration of the Älvkarleby hydro power plant in 1915