Viewpoint: Putting Out the Welcome Mat

Dams and hydro plants as tourist destinations? Absolutely. This is a growing trend around the world, and hydro plant owners and operators are working to accommodate the general public’s desire to visit these fascinating facilities. In fact, just recently I have read about three great examples of countries and governments catering to interested visitors.

For example, The Jakarta Post reported on Japan’s ongoing initiative to provide “dam trading cards” to interested tourists. The cards can only be obtained from the dams’ management offices and feature photos and specifications of each dam.

The business card-sized trading cards feature a photo of the dam, letters indicating its purpose and type (F for flood control, G for gravity dam, etc.), specifications, and random facts or special features.

These cards are now available at 500 locations (up from 111 when the program was launched in 2007), including Takihata Dam in Osaka Prefecture, which was completed in 1981. For context, the Dams in Japan website lists about 2,500 dams in the country.

In another example, according to a website called Agenda.ge, work will soon be under way to encourage more local and foreign visitors to come to Enguri Dam on the Enguri River in northwestern Georgia. Enguri is the world’s fourth largest concrete arch dam at 271.5 m high and 728 m wide and was officially granted the status of National Monument in 2015. The dam impounds water for a 1,250 MW hydroelectric power plant.

A new glass elevator would be built to allow tourists to venture deep into the dam, giving them access to parts previously open only to workers. The new elevator would replace an old elevator used to transport materials into the dam from ground level. Other infrastructure to be built to accommodate the public’s desire to visit this facility includes a visitor’s center, museum, cable cars, high lookout spots and special activities for “extreme sport lovers.”

And in a third example, Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company of Iceland, reports a booming energy tourism industry in the country.

The company owns 13 hydropower stations, as well as three geothermal plants and one wind facility. Three of these 17 stations are open to the public for guided tours. One example is Karahnjukar Dam and its associated 700 MW Fljotsdalur Power Station, which reached full operational capacity in 2007. At this site, visitors can receive a guided tour of the development (which features the tallest concrete-faced rockfill dam in Europe) and nature of the area.

The public is very interested in the opportunity to visit this and other power producing facilities in the country. In fact, in a 2016 Gallup poll, 50% of tourists visiting Iceland said they were interested in visiting one of the country’s power stations, and three out of four polled said that renewable energy would have a positive effect on how they experience Icelandic nature.

Do you offer unique programs to cater to public interest in your hydro plant? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Email me at elizabethi@pennwell.com.

Elizabeth Ingram

Managing Editor

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