“ Address: Llanberis / Gwynedd / LL55 4UR / UK „
Now we live in Llandudno we often go for a drive in the Snowdonia Mountains and we pass Electric Mountain in Llanberis on the way round. It looked really interesting so we decided we should take a look, but I don't think either of us were quite prepared for the scale of what we were about to see.
As I said Electric Mountain is in Llanberis and is just about opposite to the lower station of the train that goes to the summit of Mount Snowdon. Incidentally that's a brilliant day out too!
Electric Mountain provides a visitor centre full of information about hydroelectric power and an underground tour to see the Dinorwig Power Station set deep inside the Elidir Mountain.
The tour itself lasts about an hour and departs at half past the hour from the visitor centre. It is advisable to either ring and book in advance or book as soon as you arrive as these tours only take about 30 people at a time and they fill up fast. In fact the first time that we visited the only tour that had places was the last one of the day and we couldn't stay that long so we had to return on another day!
The cost of the tour is £7 for adults and £3.50 for children. There is also a variety of family tickets available for up to four adults and four children costing £39.
Once you have purchased your ticket you are free to do as you please until the time of your tour.
There is a café at the visitor centre, which serves a wide range of snacks and meals, with some lovely homemade delights!
There are also lots of galleries with information about hydroelectric power, how the power station was built and hands on displays too. You can even have a go at generating your own electricity using pedal power if you feel really fit!
The shop in the visitor centre has recently been extended and has all sorts of gifts ranging from the customary pencils, rubbers, notebooks etc. with Electric Mountain written on them to glassware and from handmade sweets to books.
Don't worry about forgetting the time as you will be called over the public address system five minutes prior to your appointed tour time, and asked to assemble upstairs in the gallery above the café. You then view a short film about Dinorwig Power Station, which is owned by Edison Mission Energy.
To view the film we sat on tiered benches with the film being projected in the centre of the white wall in front of us. To each side of the film, also on the wall, were other images. Above the film were four television sets, two on each side. One on each side was showing a documentary to go with the film and the other was showing someone signing the dialogue. I was very impressed by this I have to say; I even understood some of it too!
The power station was first commissioned in 1984 and when it was built it was the biggest engineering project ever undertaken.
The film explained that the power station was not in constant use, but rather that it was ready to produce electricity at its full capacity within 16 seconds to compensate for any shortfall in power at peak times, such as lunchtime, cold weather or the power surge of everyone putting the kettle on after Coronation Street! This is why the power station is known as 'The Ever Ready Giant'.
The film also explains how the power station was built inside the mountain so as not to impact on the beautiful scenery, flora and fauna of the Snowdonia National Park.
Basically the power is produced when water from Marchlyn Mawr, the lake at the top of the mountain falls through the 6 vast generating units inside the mountain into the reservoir at the bottom of the mountain, driving huge turbines as it goes.
During the early hours of the morning, using off peak electricity, the turbines become pumps and pump the water back up the mountain from the reservoir back to Marchlyn Mawr ready to be used again the following day.
I have to say that I found the film very interesting, the language and explanations were easy to understand and the visual images were very effective too. Just a word of caution, there were lightening flashes during the part of the film where the influence of the weather was being explained, but there was a suitable warning before the film started.
The film lasted about 10 minutes and after it had finished we were taken to a set of lockers where we had to leave all our belongings. For security reasons no cameras, bags or such like are allowed underground. To operate a locker I had to insert a £1 coin but this was returned to me when I reopened the locker later.
We then all boarded a single decked bus where there were hard hats waiting on every seat, and we set off into the 16 kilometre's of underground tunnels within the mountain. It was like being on a film set for James Bond!
The guide who came with us really knew her stuff and she had a good interesting way of explaining everything to us.
Our first stop was to see the huge generating units. As we arrived two of them were actually working and as we sat listening to our guide we actually saw the enormous yellow counterweight swing down and close the one unit.
We were allowed to get off the coach at this point and look more closely at the generating units, which were an amazing size!
We then walked a short distance to the chamber where the turbine was spinning at an incredible rate. Obviously we were safely behind rails at all times so that no one was able to mess with anything that they shouldn't!!
We then boarded the bus again, gave our heads a rest - those hard hats are so irritating after a while, and continued to our next stop.
We were allowed off the bus again a short while later to view the vast underground cavern the size of 3 football pitches, which houses all the operational machinery. We viewed this from a platform above and at the end of the cavern. On the walls there were diagrams of the machinery and explanations as to how it all worked, so we could see exactly where we were standing in relation to the entire generating procedure.
Just as a point of interest it only takes 6 people to run the whole power station over the weekend, although there are 20 or so employed there during the week.
We then went into another room to see a final short film about Edison Mission Energy itself. This lasted approximately five minutes and again was very interesting.
We then headed back to the bus to be taken back outside the mountain into the September sunshine. The return drive took us past the reservoir at the base of the mountain where we could see the turbulence on the surface as the water rushed down through the mountain and out into the depths of the water.
We saw the gates at the end of the reservoir with sluices ready to be opened if the water level got too high and we saw the tidemarks on the side of the rock so that we could see where the height of the water was at the end of the generating day.
The lake at the top and the reservoir at the bottom were once part of a river flowing through the area and both contained many fish, some of which were quite rare. The fish were removed and rehoused in other lakes in the area of similar climate and the river was diverted around the lakes. The conservationists were pleased to see that the salmon returned up the rerouted river and still spawned in the other lakes.
The whole tour took about an hour and it was well worth the money. All parts of the tour are accessible by wheelchair although they do advise that you book in advance if possible.
Electric Mountain can be found on the A4086 at Llanberis. Just follow the signs for Llanberis from the A5 and the A55.
It is open from 9.30am until 5.30pm from Easter to the end of September and from 10.00am until 4.30pm during October.
Winter opening times are available by telephoning 01 286 870 636, which is also the number for all other enquiries.
The website address is www.electricmountain.co.uk and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The one thing that amazed me above everything else was that, when the station was running to its full capacity, it could produce enough electricity to supply the whole of Wales.
Admittedly this would only be for a maximum of five hours before the water ran out at the top lake, but even so surely the building of a few more of these power stations would be preferable to the use of Nuclear Fuels and all the threats to our life and health that Nuclear Fuel brings with it?
First Hydro Company's Visitor centre in Llanberis. Its split level layout contains a gift shop and café and is the starting point for the tour of Dinorwig Power Station.