Roundup of Hydro Activity in Europe

By David Appleyard
chief editor of HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide

Europe is the region of the world with the highest installed capacity of hydroelectric generation, according to the International Hydropower Association’s (IHA) latest available figures. This region accounts for about 260 GW of the estimated global total of 860-950 GW of hydro generation.

Other regions figure significantly in this report, including Eastern Asia. Much attention has been focused on this region, which is rapidly developing its hydro resources and is expected to become the region with the greatest level of deployment within the next three years. Indeed, China, which leads this region in hydro development, now exceeds the USA as the country with the highest installed capacity. South America is also developing rapidly. In addition, IHA estimates that there are 127 to 150 GW of pumped storage capacity globally, and it is anticipated that the market for pumped storage will increase by 60% over the next five years or so.

Overall, large hydropower grew modestly in percentage terms in 2009, according to the latest REN-21 Global Renewables Status report. This 3% expansion is remarkable because of hydropower’s maturity and sizeable base. While hydro equipment orders slipped in 2009 and 2010 from 2008, pre-orders for 2011 have risen to fuel expectations that average orders for the 2010s will top those in the 2000s, REN-21 believes.

Even so, the REN-21 report states that a further 31 GW of hydro capacity was added in 2009 for a rise in total capacity that – among all renewable sectors – was second only to that of wind power. In addition, about US$40—45 billion was invested in large hydropower over the year.

In developed markets, such as those in Europe – where many hydro plants are 30 or 40 years old – activity has focused on relicensing and repowering, as well as adding generation to existing dams, the report concludes. This trend is clearly supported by the market activity seen in 2009 and 2010, and, as this roundup shows, several markets are emerging as local hotspots.


As recently as October, signs that the Norwegian hydro market is in robust health came from aluminium and renewable energy company Norsk Hydro. The company announced that it plans to invest about NOK850 million (US$141 million) over the next four years to upgrade the Rjukan hydropower system in Telemark, southeast Norway.

This system comprises five plants – Frà¸ystul, Vemork, Sà¥heim, Moflà¥t, and Mà¦l – with a combined annual generation of about 3 TWh, or some 30% of Norsk Hydro’s annual hydro production. Planned work consists of upgrading the waterways, including building a new dam at Skarfoss; installing new control systems and power distribution; and rehabilitating generators and turbines.

“We need to consistently ensure that our power system is safe and sound. The planned work aims to maintain the plant safety level and reduce the risk of potential production losses due to possible faults and outages,” said Arvid Moss, executive vice president of Norsk Hydro’s energy business area.

Work is due to start in 2011 and be completed in 2015. Activities requiring total shutdown of all five plants will be executed in two outage periods of about 16 weeks each, in 2012 and 2014.

This development followed the autumn start of construction at Norsk Hydro’s Holsbru project with the blasting of feeder tunnels from Holsbruvatn and Rausdà¸la lakes to an existing hydro station at Tyin. The new tunnels will allow Norsk Hydro to utilize previously unused water resources and, by resuming production from two of the units at Tyin (which has been out of service since 2004), the company will increase production by 84 GWh, with total power production from Tyin exceeding 1,600 GWh. Slightly more than NOK200 million ($31.7 million) will be invested in the project.

In addition, Norsk Hydro has applied for a concession to build a hydro plant at à˜yane and a 113 GWh pumped-storage plant at Ilvatn. If regulatory approval is granted, the company plans to start work at Ilvatn in 2012, with commercial operations expected mid-2015. Construction on the 98 GWh à˜yane station is expected to start in mid-2012 and take two years. Norsk Hydro has a stated aim of increasing its hydro production by 10% over the coming years from the current 94 TWh annual average output.

The 480 MW Limberg 2 pumped-storage project in Austria will use two existing reservoirs. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2011.

Voith Hydro announced its largest ever deal in Norway with a contract worth more than €53 million ($70.2 million) for the supply and installation of six new units for the Raanaasfoss project, which began operating in 1922. The deal, with Glomma Kraftproduksjon AS, involves supplying and installing the complete electromechanical equipment, including vertical propeller turbines with a capacity of 15.5 MW each.

Commissioning of the first unit is scheduled for December 2012, with the last unit due in spring 2016.

Most recently, in December 2010, Norwegian energy and communications firm Tussa commissioned Rainpower ASA to provide turbine-generator units for four small hydro plants to be built in à˜rsta municipality under a NOK40 million ($6.6 million) contract.

Consisting of four vertical Pelton turbines with penstock, main control valves, and generators, the deliveries will be made to new plants at Standal, Viddal, Dalegjerdet, and Draura. All the plants are due to be in operation in spring 2012 and have a combined annual production of nearly 50 GWh.

Germany and Austria

Germany is already highly developed when it comes to hydro. According to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), hydropower generated more than 19 TWh in Germany in 2009, or about 3.3% of the national total. Nonetheless, modernization projects continue to offer possibilities for increasing output.

One recent example comes from the Waldeck I pumped-storage plant on Lake Edersee, which was officially commissioned at the end of April 2010. E.ON Wasserkraft GmbH invested about €52 million ($68.8 million) into Waldeck I to upgrade the plant, built in the 1930s. Voith Hydro and civil construction partner Bilfinger Berger developed the new 74 MW station. The upper reservoir has been refurbished, and two turbines of the old Waldeck I plant have been modernized.

Elsewhere, work is continuing extending the 110 MW Rheinkraftwerk Iffezheim pumped-storage plant. With four turbines, Rheinkraftwerk Iffezheim – operated by a 50:50 joint venture of EnBW and Electricite de France (EDF) – has been supplying about 740 GWh annually since 1978. The fifth machine, with a 38.5 MW capacity, is due to come on line in 2012. A total investment of €90 million ($119.2 million) is expected for the project. Andritz Hydro is to supply the electromechanical equipment under the terms of a €25 million ($33.1 million) contract. Start-up of the new unit is scheduled for autumn 2011.

The project will increase the total power output of the plant to almost 150 MW, making Rheinkraftwerk Iffezheim the largest hydro plant on the Rhine River. As a result, the average annual electricity production will increase to about 860 GWh.

Pierre Gadonneix, chairman and chief executive officer of EDF, highlighted the role of hydro in his company’s strategy, saying the Rheinkraftwerk Iffezheim expansion formed “part of the strategy of a group aiming to develop renewable energy, in particular hydraulic energy, which represents the primary renewable energy source in the world to be exploited by EDF.”

In neighboring Austria, a number of rehab and refurbishment projects are under way. For example, Voith Hydro will rehabilitate the Rodund II pumped-storage plant after it was damaged during a fire in the summer of 2009. Operator Voralberger Illwerke has ordered a replacement for the unit, which had been operating since 1976, with Voith Hydro’s scope of supply comprising a reversible pump-turbine, an air-cooled motor-generator, and related ancillary equipment.

Using water from the Kops, Silvretta, Luenersee, and Vermuntsee reservoirs, the project’s capacity will increase from 276 MW to 295 MW, utilizing a head of 350 meters. The deal is worth about €40 million (US$53 million) to Voith.

The 480 MW Limberg 2 project is also under construction in Austria. The first of two Francis units at the plant, owned by Verbund Austrian Hydro Power AG, is scheduled to be commissioned in 2011, with full commercial operation expected by the end of the year.

At this plant in Salzburg, which uses two existing reservoirs – Mooserboden and Wasserfallboden – Andritz VA Tech Hydro is supplying motor-generators, excitation systems, and steel tunnel linings. Voith Hydro is supplying pump-turbines and governors.

The Limberg 2 project at the 50 year-old site will more than double capacity at the Kaprun hydro scheme, from 353 MW to 833 MW in a €365 million (US$483.2 million) project.

In addition, Andritz is to supply equipment for the new Gà¶ssendorf and Kalsdorf stations that are to be built to the south of Graz. Under the terms of a €28 million (US$37.1 million) deal with Energie Steiermark AG, Andritz Hydro is to supply, install, and commission four bulb turbines, speed governors, generators, and exciter systems.

The two hydro stations, each with 20 MW capacity, are to be built jointly by Energie Steiermark and Verbund, with a total investment of €156 million (US$206.6 million).


The theme of refurbishment continues throughout the Alpine states, with a notable 2010 deal coming from Swiss utility Kraftwerke Hinterrhein AG (KHR). A total of 13 generators are to be overhauled by 2016 under a €32 million (US$42.4 million) contract with Voith Hydro.

KHR’s power plant fleet consists of four hydro plants that bring a large range of technological requirements: Sils (four 60 MW units) and Baerenburg (four 55 MW units) use vertical high-pressure Francis turbines, Ferrera uses horizontal pumped-storage units with motor-generators (three 63 MW turbine capacity, and an overall pumping capacity of 90 MW), while Thusis is a small plant (2 MW and 4 MW respectively).

Elsewhere in Switzerland, ABB won an order late in 2009 worth $120 million from Kraftwerke Linth-Limmern AG (KLL) related to construction of a new pumped-storage plant in the east of the country.

The Linthal-Limmern station will be installed in an underground cavern and will be used to pump water from the Limmernsee to the upper Muttsee reservoir, 600 meters above. The first of four units is expected to be operational by 2015.

ABB will provide electrical equipment, including transformers, medium-voltage switchgear, and instrumentation and automation systems.

KLL, a partnership between energy utility Axpo AG and the Swiss canton of Glarus, manages a complex of hydropower stations, and the new 1,000 MW facility will boost its total capacity almost four-fold to about 1,460 MW.

The underground powerhouse will contain four 250 MW reversible vertical Francis pump-turbines and four 280 MVA vertical asynchronous motor-generator units. Alstom Hydro is to supply the equipment for the project, which is expected to cost about CHF1.8 billion ($1.77 billion). The equipment is to be delivered by 2015

This is the second variable speed pumped-storage plant contract Alstom has signed in Switzerland recently. In May 2009, the company was awarded a €125 million (US$165.5 million) contract to equip the 628 MW Nant de Drance station with four 157 MW vertical Francis reversible turbines, four 170 MVA vertical asynchronous motor-generator units and other equipment, as well as to handle site delivery, erection, supervision and commissioning. In June 2010, Converteam was awarded a €25 million (US$33.1 million) contract by Alstom Switzerland Ltd to supply variable speed drives for both the Nant de Drance and Linthal plants.

The company says Switzerland produces about 66 TWh of energy per year, with hydroelectricity making up more than 50%. However, due to increasing demand and an aging fleet, 25 to 35 TWh per year will need to be replaced or renewed by 2035.

Utility plays driving development

Highlighting a few areas of vigorous activity can do little more than give just a flavor of ongoing hydro development in Europe. But it is clear that much of the refurbishment and rehabilitation work is driven by utility groups, in many cases the major players in the European energy sector. Certainly EDF’s Gadonneix is vocal in setting out his company’s hydro ambitions, but he is not alone.

In a recent company address, Iberdrola Chairman Ignacio Galà¡n outlined the company’s plans for 2011. He said that in Spain, the company will continue to work on major projects, such as the extension to the 2,000 MW hydroelectric plant at La Muela near Valencia, making it the continent’s largest pumped-storage complex. Galà¡n also talked of major hydro development in Portugal with construction of the Upper Tà¡mega complex, with a capacity in excess of 1,000 MW.

Indeed, Iberdrola has previously announced plans to invest about €9 billion ($12.2 billion) through 2012 in developing hydro projects and other renewable energy sources, with the UK and Spain receiving much of the investment. Supporting this investment in 2009, the European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed to lend €300 million ($448.7 million) to help finance three pumped-storage projects as expansions of existing hydro plants. Galà¡n said, “All this activity will enable us to continue to grow sustainably as we have done in the past, and take on the future in all confidence and security.”

And, the Norwegian government seeks to increase the equity capital in Statkraft SF with NOK14 billion ($2.3 billion) in its proposal to the Norwegian Parliament for balancing the national budget for 2010. Statkraft Chief Executive Officer Christian Rynning-Tà¸nnesen praised the move, saying, “The government’s proposal will strengthen Statkraft’s growth in environmental and flexible power generation, international hydropower, wind power, in addition to district heating.”

Europe is enjoying an environment that includes the backing of major European utility groups, the apparent availability of investment cash, and a bubbling diverse market focused on refurbishment, repowering, and more flexible forms of hydro generation. Against this backdrop, it seems that while the European market may lose its coveted position as the single largest installed base, it can still command a significant chunk of the global hydro business.

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