Loring family had observed how the part of the Guadalhorce river in the gorge Desfiladero de los Gaitanes could be used for generating power during the building of the railway Córdoba –Málaga in 1866. When it was possible to perform works, Jorge Loring Heredia asked to be awarded the project which was prepared by the civil engineer Leopoldo Werner.
The project was based on 100 metres elevation at the altitude of the river Guadalhorce, between the area of Gaitanejo and the gorge – Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, in order to produce a hydraulic precipice and generate electric power. Jorge Loring Heredia was awarded the license for this project through the 24th November 1902 Royal Act, although the works were never carried out, among other reasons, because they could disturb already existing railway lines.
Mr Benjumea, Mr Silvela and Mr Loring: the works
Rafael Benjumea overtook the project, and in order to achieve financial support he founded Hydroelectric Company – El Chorro on 26th July 1903 with Francisco Silvela de Le Vielleuze and José Loring Heredia. It was a family company, considering that Rafael Benjumea’s mother-in-law and Francisco Silvela’s wife were sisters and members of a prestigious family Heredia Loring. Their funds used for the project were two million twenty-five thousand pesetas, and the company was headquartered in Madrid.
The same year, they started to build. Civil engineer Rafael Benjumea personally supervised the works, and was the core of the project. He combined his office job in Málaga with technical assistance at the building site. This meant long journeys from the city to El Chorro, considering how undeveloped the means of transport were at the time.
All the facilities that formed part of the hydroelectric power station were finished in 1905, and started to work in 1906. The service was satisfying from the beginning. Firstly, El Chorro Company made contracts with big clients and power companies. Some of their first clients were Siemens Electricische Betribe, known as ‘The German One’, English Electric Power Company, known as ‘The English One’, Building Railway Company Málaga-Torre del Mar, and Belgian Tram Company. Company’s investment was recouped very fast, considering that demand overcame production almost immediately.
Two incidents and their consequences
However, after a short period of time, two accidents happened in the power station. On 24th September 1907, torrential rain flooded the station after a pipe exploded. This caused serious damages. On 13th October 1908, when the service was about to be reestablished, there was a fire which happened when the oil on one of the transformers was being dried. Damage was even bigger than in the previous accident, and the station could not provide their clients with the power they had contracted. Electricity supply to English Electric Power Company was cancelled, and it was limited in the case of the rest of clients. Although another power station hired from Mather and Platt was kept in reserve, it could not be used at the time, and the Málaga Electricity was asked to make an offer for the Hydroelectric Company El Chorro.
The repairs of El Chorro cost too much. In order to be able to confront the expenses caused by the accidents, Rafael Benjumea was not only obliged to progressively transfer ownership of all the properties he had inherited from his father but he had to accept financial support of his family-in-law. Moreover, Loring family had to mortgage the most cherished belonging – their country house La Concepción, where the Benjumea Heredia’s used to spend part of the year, so they could buy new machinery and repair the damage caused by the accidents happened in 1907 and 1908.
Hydroelectric Power Station El Chorro starts working again
Finally, the above mentioned property was sold, and thanks to the help of shareholders and family members, and after all the economical difficulties had been overcome, the power station started working again. Its production was good enough to plan a construction of a new adjustable dam, known as El Chorro Dam, which was meant to solve severe problems of power instability.
As the hydroelectric power station’s productivity was increasing, high voltage production for industrial facilities and other wholesalers was progressively being prevailed over by the production for other services. Finally, they achieved to add services that had been covered by two foreign companies which generated electricity for Málaga City by steam machines. Thanks to this, they were able to acquire Malaga’s Tram Company, which had previously been awarded to a Belgium company. This way, electricity supply in this Andalusian city was finally nationalized, and this political aim fulfilled thanks to Benjumea’s success.