Iowa Martins in Albania

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

trip to Hydropower dam

Rarely in life do situations work out better than expected.

"The roads not too bad" "You should call the day before to make sure the road has not washed out" "It's too dangerous" "If I were you, I'd take a car and drive up there all the way a few days before so you can check it out yourself. These bus companies always say the road is fine." "You had better call to see if there is somewhere inside you can eat in case it is raining." "Make sure they have toilets there."

These are some of the concerns expressed before we made the trip.

Everyone who planned to take part was gathered at school one minute after the agreed upon time. With the sun shining, breeze blowing softly, Blue Planet on the DVD screen, and everyone smiling, we took off at 7:50.

Less than two hours after leaving the school, 40 minutes of which was spent threading our way through Tirana, we arrived at the dam. I thought I should call to alert them that we were in the area, and all of a sudden we were at the gate. I saw Mr. Sokol Ramadani, the manager of the site, answer his phone as he walked up to welcome us.

Ramadani, who learned about hydroelectric dams in Canada, was a superb tour guide as he spoke flawless English and eagerly answered our questions. He was quite happy to show off the clean plant with new equipment. He has had to convince the workers and engineers that the best way to run a plant is to keep it clean and well maintained.

He took us into the display rooms with models of the site, classrooms, the control areas, the turbines, and around to the lake. The whole site can be remotely controlled from Tirana if necessary. We learned that a benefit of the huge amount of water this spring is that they have been working at full capacity for several months, producing more power than Albania needs. The extra electricity can be exported to places like Greece.

During my time in the 8-year-old classroom, we studied electricity and how it can be generated in such plants. During our tour Mr. Ramadani confirmed that indeed nothing is "generated" at the plant, but the energy is transformed from the kinetic energy of the water to electrical energy through the use of a turbine.

After an hour-long tour of the plant, we drove to an excellent outdoor restaurant where everyone at their sack lunches. We made it back to school in plenty of time for after school activities.

After several troubles and at least four reschedules, I am happy to say that I wish every field trip could be so smooth, beneficial and trouble-free. Among the many people we'd like to thank are Marialis Celo and Dan Berg for their invaluable help in setting up our trip.


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