Austria’s Verbund breaks ground for Albania’s 48-MW Ashta

With Albania Prime Minister Sali Berisha in attendance, Austrian utility Verbund and SPV Energji Ashta broke ground for construction of the 48-MW Ashta hydropower plant on Albania’s Drin River in Shkoder District.

The 160 million euro (US$227 million) investment is for a run-of-river hydropower plant to be built south of Shkoder, making it the fourth hydro plant on the Drin, but the first to be built in more than 30 years.

“The technological solution developed by our partners and us is a genuine innovation,” Verbund Board Member Christian Kern said May 25, 2009. “For the first time in Europe, the hydromatrix technology will be implemented on a large scale. A sensible economic development of this power plant location would not be possible with conventional methods.”

Kern said the clean energy and innovative technology are credited for Verbund winning a concession tender for the project in 2008. (HydroWorld 10/1/08) Verbund and Austrian utility EVN were named winners of the concession over a rival bid from a joint venture of Compagnie Nationale du Rhone and Electrabel.

Verbund previously said the project is to feature StrafloMatrix technology, a trademarked product of Andritz Hydro, employing about 90 small turbine-generators installed in modules.

Verbund said Albania’s Ministry for the Environment confirmed Ashta’s environmental compatibility in April and a government site permit has been granted. It said an application for a construction permit is expected to be submitted in June.

Although Ashta is expected to be operational in 2012, Verbund indicated the project could begin generating power in 2011.

National news agency ATA said Berisha told the gathering that Ashta is the beginning of a hydropower investment program to develop 104 projects.

“Today we inaugurate kickoff works for construction of not one, 10, or 30, but 104 hydropower stations dotted across the country,” the prime minister said. “We have finalized and are to finalize 60 contracts for 104 hydropower stations with a general capacity of 1,000 MW in total and an investment worth 2.2 billion euros” (US$3.1 million).

Verbund said it is negotiating with EVN to become partners in the project. EVN and Norway’s Statkraft signed a 950 million euro (US$1.37 billion) agreement with Albania in December 2008 to build three hydroelectric plants in the Devoll River Valley totaling 340 MW. (HydroWorld 12/29/08)

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