The use of waterfalls power from the upper basin of La Bieugne, a tributary of Roya river, for the production of hydroelectricity was the subject of a strategy and remarkable work before the First World War.
A downstream first turbine installation from Casterino was motivated by the Vallauria Mine’s energy needs. Elletro Mineraria started the construction of Mesches power plant, which was commissioned around 1918-19.
The Mesches dam, highest of the Maritime Alps (1369 m altitude), is the key to the system. Commissioned in 1917, it is fed by eight highland lakes equipped with valves to regulate the reservoirs. Seven of which were elevated to increase their capacity. It is a masonry weight dam, 77 m high, which has a large fruit on its downstream face, and stone facing on its upper half. It feeds Saint-Dalmas de Tende power plant by a quadruple penstock, a fall of 720 m.
Saint-Dalmas power plant’s construction started in 1910 and ended in 1914. But Mesches Lake reservoir, feeding it, was not put in service until 1917. This plant’s production contributed in particular the Cuneo – Ventimiglia railway line electrification.
The double building stretches between RD 6204 road and the foot of the slope where the penstocks go down. The Great Turbines Hall is to the north and the large farm building on five levels, to the south.
The base (low level, catching the longitudinal slope of the site) is equipped with stone facing bosses. Special attention has been paid to the modernist decoration details.
The Paganin plant was completed in 1917 and commissioned soon thereafter.
The construction, located on a small site, at the bottom of a rocky gorge, between the slope and the road, lies against Paganin valley, which marked the Franco-Italian border until 1947. The Italians’ will was to use the Mesches’ water one last time on the national territory, with the maximum possible fall. The water collected at Saint-Dalmas is sent to the Paganin factory before being returned to La Roya, on the former border … where it was immediately captured to feed the French power station, in Fontan.
The small building of Paganin took elements of architecture from Saint-Dalmas powerplant, with fewer dimensions and ornamentation.