Boosting Hydro Capacity through Refurbishments

A swathe of new refurbishment projects looks set to boost hydropower capacity worldwide and extend the life of existing assets.

By David Appleyard

The longevity of hydropower installation infrastructure makes these facilities typically great candidates for refurbishment and repowering. By maximizing energy yields and functionality from an existing hydro resource, environmental impacts are minimized while assets can be given a whole new lease on life.

As interest in hydropower picks up, there is increasing evidence that the trend for repowering and refurbishing hydro assets is picking up pace along with it. Certainly, it’s no surprise that the big original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been extremely active in this area.

Andritz Hydro, for example, has announced a series of refurbishment schemes in Europe over the past few months. Among these projects is modernization of the Innertkirchen 1 and Handeck 2 stations in Switzerland, first built more than 60 years ago.

Owners Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG placed an order with the group to supply two Pelton turbines and one synchronous generator as part of the work. Commissioning is scheduled for 2016, and the modernization is expected to result in an additional 70 GWh being produced by the project annually.

The order comprises supply, installation and commissioning of two vertical, six-jet Pelton units with capacities of 150 MW and 90 MW and a 165 MVA vertical synchronous generator. According to a statement, the upgrade will boost the overall capacity of the two plants to 670 MW.

By building a second head race, the flow rate of the water and thus the friction losses in the pressure pipes will be reduced. As a result, more energy can be generated from the water volume used in both power stations.

Andritz is also behind the modernization of the 236 MW Ybbs-Persenbeug project on the Danube in Austria. Owned by Verbund, the run-of-river plant on the Ybbs River was commissioned in 1959.

Due to new technologies in hydraulic and electrical engineering, improved materials and manufacturing techniques, and digital control systems, the plant will generate an additional 60 GWh.

With its “Ybbs 2020” project, Verbund is continuing in a collaboration with Andritz Hydro to revitalize the power stations on the River Danube. The 287.4 MW Aschach power station was already modernized between 2006 and 2010.

Other major players are also active refurbishing and modernizing hydro projects in the European sector. For instance, Voith Hydro received an order under which it will modernize several turbines in the Rheinkraftwerk Albbruck-Dogern plant on the Rhine River on the German-Swiss border. Supplying three vertical Kaplan runners for the project, which has been operating for 80 years, the order is worth about €25 million (US$33.4 million). Recently, the project’s operating license was extended – until 2072.

On the southern Rhine alone, not far from Albbruck-Dogern, Voith Hydro recently modernized and overhauled the 100 MW Rheinfelden, Erneg and Bad Sackingen hydropower plants. In Norway, the company received orders for the modernization of six turbines in four hydropower stations back in March.

The deal with Statkraft – covering four Norwegian hydro stations – is worth about €10 million ($13.3 million) and covers the modernization of turbines in the stations Oevre Roessaaga, Nedre Roessaaga, Baatsvatn and Vessingfoss. The plants, which were installed between 1955 and 1975, will receive six new Francis turbines and in future generate up to 10% more output.

Looking outside Europe

Beyond Europe, the beginning of this year also saw Voith Hydro secure several major orders to modernize hydropower stations in Brazil and China. The combined contract value of the projects is about €185 million ($246.9 million).

For three major projects in Brazil, Voith Hydro is modernizing the 1.42 MW Salto Santiago and 226 MW Passo Fundo power plants on behalf of Tractebel Energia S.A., as well as 414 MW Chavantes hydropower station for operator Duke Energy.

In the Sanmenxia plant in China, Voith Hydro is modernizing two 50 MW turbines as well as other components and automation elements.

Dr. Roland Muench, chief executive officer of Voith Hydro, explained: “Our success with these orders shows that the trend towards modernization in major hydro power markets is further continuing. As an additional important mainstay, the growing modernization business complements the existing activities regarding new constructions.” He adds that China and Brazil are among the largest hydropower markets in the world: “Apart from working on new infrastructure projects, both countries are increasingly focusing on the modernization and refurbishment of hydro power plants that have been running for decades now. This is development that has already started to take place in North America and Europe.”

Focus on Russia

In Russia, one of the key markets for refurbishment and modernization,1 Voith Hydro is one of a number of major manufacturers to secure deals and forge alliances with RusHydro. March this year saw the two companies sign a contract establishing the 50:50 joint venture VolgaHydro LLC.

Besides the possibility of building new hydropower plants, the joint venture focuses on extensive modernization of old hydro stations. For instance, Voith Hydro and RusHydro have already started to renew the plants Miatlinskaya and Saratovskaya, with a capacity of 1,360 MW. Voith Hydro also modernized the technical equipment of the 110 MW Uglich hydropower plant for RusHydro.

Similarly, RusHydro and Alstom have expanded cooperation in their hydropower equipment joint venture AlstomRusHydroEnergy, in particular related to reconstruction and modernization of the Kubanski Cascade projects. This project covers complex modernization of eight hydro plants and one pumped-storage plant, comprising the cascade. Alstom will manufacture equipment and will supervise installation and pre-launch testing. The key component is introduction of automated centralized control of the cascade from the town of Nevinnomyssk.

AlstomRusHydroEnergy, a 50:50 plus one share joint venture, was established in 2011. It will manufacture main power generation equipment for small (up to 25 MW) and mid-sized (up to 100 MW) hydropower plants and pumped-storage plants (up to 150 MW), as well as auxiliary equipment. At the same time, sales to RusHydro’s hydropower plants undergoing rehabilitation and modernization will be a priority business of the enterprise, a statement says.

A June agreement extends the scope of the joint venture to services including the inspection of power plants, supply of spare parts and components, retooling and the repair and upgrade of equipment.

Joint ventures aside, RusHydro has also secured contracts to refurbish and modernize hydro plants, for example, recently receiving the first payment under an agreement with Nigeria’s Mainstream Energy Solutions Ltd. In September 2012, a consortium of Mainstream and RusHydro won a tender to operate two hydropower plants in Nigeria.

Both power plants – Kainji and Jebba – are located on the Niger River, and have installed capacities of 760 MW and 578 MW, respectively, although current available capacity is substantially below the nameplate. The concession conditions provide for modernization, with RusHydro responsible for technical management and management.

Mainstream will spend US$452 million for modernization of the plants during the first five years of the concession.

Meanwhile, RusHydro has also supported funding for refurbishment of hydro projects. In May, the company backed a $25 million loan from the Asian Development Bank for modernization of Armenia’s Sevan-Hrazdan hydropower plants, built between the 1930s and 1960s. Located on river Hrazdan between Lake Sevan and the city of Yerevan, it currently supplies about 10% of the country’s electricity.

The seven plant cascade with a total capacity of 561 MW now requires refurbishment to extend its working life and reduce the risk of major failures, RusHydro says. Aside from the rehabilitation of the hydropower plants, there are also plans to modernize the plants’ diversion channels.

This latest development followed a similar deal with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) back in January, also related to a loan for the modernization of the Sevan-Hrazdan cascade. The $25 million EBRD loan matures in 2029.

Apart from significantly extending the operational lifetime of hydropower facilities, modernization and refurbishment can increase power output and can also ensure long-term reductions in operating costs. As such, this should be the first order of business for the hydropower industry.


David Appleyard is chief editor of HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide.

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