Icelandic hydro project assessed using Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol

The 690-MW Karahnjukar hydroelectric project, in Fljotsdalur Valley of eastern Iceland has achieved “best practice scores” in several categories of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP), according to the International Hydropower Association.

The protocol, developed by IHA in 2009 and adopted by its membership in 2010, is a comprehensive tool used to determine the sustainability of hydropower projects. HSAP uses evidence-based assessments of up to 23 topic areas or categories, depending on the development stage of a project. Some of the topic areas include: downstream flow regimes, indigenous peoples, biodiversity, infrastructure safety, resettlement, water quality, erosion and sedimentation.

IHA announced results from the Karahnjukar assessment, which was completed in September 2017, on Feb. 14. The data indicate for the 17 categories assessed, the station fulfilled requirements to meet proven best practice in 11, basic good practice in four and two categories were non-applicable.

In May 2017, reported IHA released Better Hydro: Compendium of Case Studies 2017, a collection of 34 case studies based on assessments carried out under HSAP.

In 2015, the 37.6-MW Kabeli-A hydropower project located on Kabeli River in Nepal received scores of basic good practice or better on all of the 22 topics assessed under the protocol, achieving proven best practice on half of them.

Funding for the US$108.6 million Kabeli-A project, in part, came from the World Bank Group, which approved $84.6 million in financing in May 2014.

Later that same year in September, the World Bank Group reviewed using HSAP for hydropower development, concluding that developing countries should make greater use of the protocol. The bank also wanted to explore how it could financially strengthen the protocol’s sustainability.

In November 2011, IHA completed the first training session on how to assess a facility using HSAP by educating employees of Malaysia state-owned utility Sarawak Energy Berhad.

“Sarawak Energy is the first of the IHA Sustainability Partners to receive training on the protocol, representing a key milestone in the development of the protocol as a tool to guide sustainability in the sector,” said Cameron Ironside, IHA sustainability director. “The protocol provides a common language around which issues of sustainability can be discussed and understood, and such training with multiple stakeholders contributes significantly to the process.”

Iceland national utility, Landsvirkjun, owns and operates the Karahnjukar plant, which is also known as Fljotsdalur Station. The plant “first came online” in 2007 and the scheme includes Karahnjukar Dam, the tallest concrete-faced rockfill dam in Europe and among the largest of its kind in the world, according to the utility.

The station’s catchment area covers over 2,200 km2 and its reservoirs are formed by five dikes that are more than 5 km in length. Water is diverted to Fljotsdalur Station turbines from reservoirs located in the highlands north of Vatnajokull Glacier, through a tunnel system that is about 72-km long.


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