World News


El Nino causes drought “here” and heavy rain “there”

Weather patterns associated with El Nino, combined with Southern Oscillation – an irregularly periodical climate change – are causing interesting effects across the globe.

In an El Nino-Southern Oscillation event, El Nino represents the oceanic property in which sea surface temperatures are the main factor and Southern Oscillation refers to the atmospheric component. “The Southern Oscillation is a ‘seesaw of atmospheric pressure between the eastern equatorial Pacific and Indo-Australian areas’ closely linked with El Nino,” according to the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., USA. “During an El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, the Southern Oscillation is reversed. Generally, when pressure is high over the Pacific Ocean, it tends to be low in the eastern Indian Ocean, and vice versa.”

Effects in different countries include:

– Indonesia: Drought affecting its southern regions is being attributed to El Nino, according to local reports. Drinking water wells in Wonigiri, central Java, are dry after no rain for nearly six months. The western monsoon rains, which normally occur December to March, are expected to start two months later.

– Vietnam: According to Nguyen Van Dam, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Irrigation Service, “Low rainfall as an impact of El Nino has significantly lowered the water level of Dau Tieng Reservoir.” Dau Tieng Dam impounds the Saigon River in southern Vietnam, creating the 1.58 billion m3 capacity reservoir. “The rainy season is predicted to end one month earlier than in previous years and this will exacerbate the problem,” he said.

– Australia: The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said past El Nino years have cut winter and spring precipitation by more than a quarter. Lower precipitation amounts occurred in the north and east, but overall, September was the third driest September on record. The bureau thinks the remainder of the year will be warmer and drier than normal, which it partly attributes to this year’s El Nino.

– USA: Temperature and precipitation impacts from El Nino will likely be seen during the next few months, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Outlooks favor below-average temperatures and above-median precipitation across the southern USA, and above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation over the northern part of the country.


News on further hydro, effects of Hurricane Patricia

Canada’s Innergex Renewable Energy and Mexico’s Comision Federal de Electricidad have signed a memorandum of understanding to study renewable energy project opportunities in Mexico, including hydropower.

The main purpose of the agreement – signed on Oct. 13 – is to coordinate efforts and develop activities allowing Innergex and CFE to define their joint participation in the development of prospective renewable energy projects, particularly hydro plants with a capacity of less than 200 MW.

Regarding Hurricane Patricia, in late October Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (SMN), Mexico’s national weather service, forecast heavy rain in Chiapas, Mexico, home to the 2,400-MW Manuel Moreno Torres facility at Chicoasen Dam. CFE owns Chicoasen Dam, which impounds the Grijalva River, creating the Chicoasen Reservoir that has 1.3 million acre-feet of capacity.

But there were no reports of unusual activity at the facility with regard to precipitation in the dam’s catchment as a result of Hurricane Patricia. Patricia is the Category 5 storm system SMN forecast to produce a total rainfall accumulation of 6 to 12 in.

Mexico had 11,632 MW of hydro capacity in 2013.


Comment period begins for EPA’s controversial Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan was published in the Federal Register Oct. 23, marking the beginning of a 90-day comment period and likely opening the door for a round of lawsuits from those opposing the controversial document.

The plan – unveiled by President Barack Obama and the EPA in August – is designed to reduce carbon emissions in the USA by more than 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. The plan sets emissions reductions goals for fossil fuel generating plants and will require individual states to establish plans for reducing their own emissions by September 2016. States must then comply with their own mandates by 2022.

EPA said the plan is a necessary response to alarming trends regarding global climate change, with 14 of the 15 warmest years on record having occurred since 2000.

The Clean Power Plan was met with near-immediate opposition from 16 states, led by West Virginia, which argued that the program “unlawfully exploits Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act” in a letter dated Aug. 5. The state of Colorado announced in September it too would file suit against the plan once the plan was published in the Federal Register.

The Clean Power Plan is available at


Construction contract terminated for

136 MW Nuble hydro plant

A contract between Electrica Puntilla and Vial y Vives-DSD has been terminated, meaning Vial y Vives-DSD will no longer be building the 136 MW Nuble hydro plant in Chile.

Puntilla cited differences between the two firms with regard to the contract, in a securities filing. The contract, reportedly valued at $257 million, involves construction of the intake, penstock, powerhouse and other works necessary for the plant’s commissioning.

Puntilla will be seeking a new company to take over construction of the US$350 million run-of-river plant, on the Nuble River in central-southern Biobio region. The project is expected to generate 620 GWh of electricity annually. The plant’s estimated startup date has been extended to May 2018 from 2017.

The Andritz Group was awarded a US$57.4 million contract in February 2015 to supply equipment for the project.


Green bond market could affect hydro project investment

Japan, the third-largest global bond player, is using green bonds to have an effect on renewable energy that will likely include hydro.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. (SMBC) is issuing $500 million through the sale of green bonds. It is the first Japanese entity to issue green bonds in dollar form, according to a report from Finance Asia. “The Development Bank of Japan was the first Japanese green bond issuer, which raised €250 million ($316 million) through a euro-denominated three-year bond in September 2014,” the report said.

SMBC said the five-year bonds will carry a 2.45% coupon rate. The organization said, “Through this issuance of green bonds, we expect to obtain funding from investors with a strong interest in the environment and society in order to finance environment-related business where further growth is expected.”

According to SMBC, it will issue the dollar-denominated debt with the funds allocated for financing renewable-energy projects. Funds from this issue could help finance other hydroelectric projects.


Alstom wins contract for second unit rehab at Markersbach pumped-storage

Alstom has received an order from Vattenfall Europe Generation AG to overhaul a synchronous generator at the 1,050 MW Markersbach pumped-storage plant on Germany’s Mittweida River.

The work calls for Alstom to deliver a new stator, bearings, bearing bracket and starting motor, in addition to disassembly, reassembly and commissioning services.

At the Markersbach pumped-storage facility, the generators in the powerhouse are being overhauled due to reaching the end of their service lives. The plant was commissioned in 1979.

The contract is the second such contract for Alstom, which was offered the first in August 2014. The company said a contractual option covers the overhaul of Markersbach’s four remaining generators at a rate of one unit per year. Work from the first contract is expected to be completed in the coming spring, with the second contract to be finished by February 2017.

Markersbach was commissioned in 1979. Alstom said the rehabilitation project is necessary due to a number of machine components reaching the end of their service lives.


Power generation begins at 1,870 MW Gibe III project

On the lower course of the Omo River and built at a cost of US$1.8 billion, the 1,870 MW Gibe III hydropower project has begun generating electricity. Gibe III consists of a roller-compacted-concrete dam 797 ft high; a reservoir that has the potential to hold 14,700 million m3 of water; and a 10-unit powerhouse on the left abutment.

The facility is about“>94 miles downstream of the powerhouse for 420 MW Gilgel Gibe II and is the third plant on the Gibe-Omo hydroelectric cascade. The 184 MW Gilgel Gibe project is also upstream of Gibe III. In addition to the first three facilities, the Ethiopian government said plans to build two additional facilities on the Omo River – 1,450 MW Gibe IV and 660 MW Gibe V.

High-voltage transmission lines are being constructed from Wolyta Sodo, Ethiopia, to the Suswa substation near Naivasha, Kenya, and the project should be complete by 2018.

Gibe III is expected to supply about half of its electricity to Ethiopia, with 500 MW being exported to Kenya, 200 MW to Sudan and 200 MW to Djibouti.


510 MW Zangmu facility is online

At more than 10,800 feet above sea level, the 510 MW Zangmu Hydropower Station – the largest in Tibet and one of the highest elevation hydroelectric facilities in the world – is fully operational. Constructed at a cost of US$1.5 billion, the facility is located in Gyaca County, Shannan Prefecture on the Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra River) that flows into India and Bangladesh.

According to China Gezhouba Group, the facility’s contractor, structures include:

– Concrete gravity dam 381 feet high and 1,276 feet long;

– Spillway, plunge pool and bottom outlet on the right bank;

– Retaining dam section 262 feet in height on the left bank;

– 70,208 acre-feet reservoir at 10,860 ft above sea level; and

– Powerhouse that has six 85 MW Francis turbine-generators.

“It will alleviate the electricity shortage in central Tibet and empower the development of the electricity-strapped region. It is also an important energy base in central Tibet,” the company said.

The facility is about 200 miles south of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city.


Consortium selected to build Upper Cisokan pumped-storage

An international consortium has been selected to build the 1,040 MW Upper Cisokan pumped-storage hydropower plant in Indonesia’s West Java province. Led by South Korean builder Daelim Industrial Co., the group also includes Italian construction firm Astaldi SpA and Indonesia’s Wijaya Karya (WIKA). The deal is worth about US$323 million.

The project is being developed by Indonesian utility PT PLN Persero. It will consist of an underground powerhouse containing four 260 MW reversible Francis pump-turbines, two roller-compacted-concrete dams impounding upper and lower reservoirs, and transmission lines connecting with the Java-Bali power system.

Financing is coming in large part from the World Bank, which approved a US$640 million loan to assist with the development of Upper Cisokan in 2011.


RusHydro’s commissions Gotsatlinskaya, continues upgrade on Zhigulevskaya

In early October, RusHydro commissioned the 100 MW Gotsatlinskaya project on the Avarskoye Koisu River in Dagestan. The project also has been permitted to sell electricity to the wholesale market.

Work on the project, developed by RusHydro’s wholly-owned subsidiary JSC Sulak Hydrocascade, began in January 2007. The plant includes a 69 m-tall rockfill dam, 491 m-long spillway tunnel, water intake, conduit, 453 m-long construction tunnel, turbine building, bypass canal and two 50 MW Francis turbine-generator units.

Upgrade work is ongoing at RusHydro’s Zhigulevskaya facility, with 14 of the 20 units having been replaced to date. When work on all is complete, plant capacity will have grown by 188 MW. reported in October 2006 that UES hydropower subsidiary HydroOGK had allocated US$9 million to finance work on the project. The plant is intended to help reduce regional power shortages which, according to RusHydro, amounted to 1.8 TWh in 2014.

In addition, upgrades at the 2,300-MW Zhigulevskaya plant on the Volga River continue as 14 of the project’s 20 turbine-generator units have now been replaced. Rehabilitation of the plant is part of the Russian utility’s comprehensive modernization program.

The newest five-bladed turbine, manufactured by OJSC Power Machines, was designed for a higher water flow rate. Components within the generator and new control, vibration monitoring and diagnostic systems have also been provided. When complete in 2018, the renovation will increase Zhigulevskaya’s capacity to about 2,488 MW.

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