Worldwide Pumped Storage Activity


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By Elizabeth A. Ingram
Associate Editor of HRW.

Pumped-storage hydroelectric facilities are well-established in their ability to balance intermittent sources of electrical energy (such as wind and solar). In addition, pumped-storage units can also provide many stabilizing features to the grid. As a result of these and other benefits, many companies are developing new facilities or rehabilitating and uprating existing plants.

In fact, more than 127,000 MW of pumped-storage capacity was operating worldwide in 2009. And the pumped storage market was expected to grow 60 percent over the next four years.1 This growth could mean a total installed pumped-storage capacity of more than 203,000 MW by 2014.

In addition to injecting money into the economy, development of pumped-storage facilities provides a valuable source of clean, reliable, renewable power. To illustrate the breadth and depth of activity occurring at pumped-storage facilities worldwide, HRW presents examples of seven facilities under construction, three that began operating in the past year, and eight that are being rehabilitated and/or upgraded. The work detailed below represents a total investment of well over US$58 billion.

Under construction

Seven pumped-storage projects under construction in Europe, Africa, and Asia — all expected to be operating by 2015 — will provide more than 4,100 MW of electrical capacity. While these are not the only projects under development, they provide good examples of the type of work occurring.

Baixo Sabor

Local utility Energias de Portugal (EDP) is building the 171 MW Baixo Sabor project on the Sabor River in northern Portugal. Baixo Sabor is being built as part of a government plan to boost hydroelectric power production in Portugal.

The project features two dams and two powerhouses, one containing two 70 MW pump-turbine units and the other containing two reversible 15.5 MW units.

Companies involved include a consortium of Andritz Hydro and Ensulmeci (supplying generating equipment) and a consortium of Bento Pedroso Construcoes SA and LENA Engenharia e Construcoes SA (building the project).

Construction of Baixo Sabor began in June 2008, and it is scheduled to begin operating in early 2013. Project costs are estimated at €354 million (US$484 million).


In Carinthia, Austria, work is proceeding on the installation of a second 75 MW unit at the existing 140 MW Feldsee project. The first unit began operating in September 2009.

This project uses water from two existing reservoirs and is owned by Karntner Elektrizitats-Aktiengesellschaft (Kelag), part of the 334 MW Fragrant power plant group. This group consists of six pumped-storage projects and three run-of-river plants.

Companies involved include ABB (which supplied the control system), Alstom Hydro Austria GmbH (which supplied the motor-generator, excitation and auxiliary systems), and Andritz VA Tech Hydro (supplier of the pump-turbine, digital governor, and shut-off and globe valves).

The project cost €50 million ($63.3 million). The second unit is expected to be operational by early 2011.

Limberg 2

The 480 MW Limberg 2 project, owned by Verbund Austrian Hydro Power AG, and currently under construction, is also set to expand pumped-storage capacity in Austria.

The project is using two existing storage reservoirs, and the underground powerhouse will contain two pump-turbine units.

Companies involved include ABB AG (supplying instrumentation), Andritz VA Tech Hydro (supplying motor-generators, excitation systems, and steel tunnel linings), Hans Kunz GmbH of Austria (supplying shut-off valves and slide gate valve chamber equipment), Jakko Poyry Group Oyj (providing detailed design and site supervision), Siemens AG Osterreich (supplying switchgear), Voith Hydro (supplying pump-turbines and governors), WPK Werkstoff-Planung-Kontroll GmbH of Austria (oversight of equipment installation), and YIT Austria GmbH (supplying electrical distribution and control equipment).

The first of the two units at Limberg 2 is scheduled to be commissioned in 2011, with full commercial operation expected by the end of that year.


Kraftwerke Linth-Limmern AG is developing the 1,000 MW Limmern project in Linthal Valley in eastern Switzerland.

An underground powerhouse will contain four 250 MW reversible vertical Francis pump-turbines and four 280 MVA vertical asynchronous motor-generator units. The plant will pump water from existing Lake Limmern into the existing Lake Mutt, although a new gravity dam will be built at the Muttsee Reservoir to increase its storage capacity.

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Construction is under way at the 480 MW Limberg 2 project in Austria. The first of the two units is scheduled to be commissioned in 2011, with full commercial operation expected by the end of that year.

Companies involved include ABB Ltd. (providing transformers, switchgears, automation systems, and switchgear substation), Alstom Hydro (supplying pump-turbines and motor-generators, also providing design, engineering, manufacturing, installing, testing, commissioning, and training services), Nexans (supplying and installing power cables), and Poyry (performing geodetic surveying and monitoring during the construction period and designing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems).

The first of the four units is expected to begin operating in 2015. Construction of Limmern is expected to cost CHF1.8 billion ($1.77 billion).

Nant de Drance

The 600 MW Nant de Drance project in southwest Switzerland is being developed by Nant de Drance SA, a joint venture of energy provider Alpiq, federal railway group SBB, and Forces Motrices Valaisannes. Nant de Drance will utilize the height difference between two existing reservoirs to produce about 1.5 TWh of peaking power each year.

The project will feature an underground powerhouse with four 157 MW vertical Francis reversible pump-turbines and four 170 MVA vertical asynchronous motor-generators.

Companies working on Nant de Drance include AF Colenco (engineering services) and Alstom Hydro SA Switzerland (supplying pump-turbines, motor-generators, and other key equipment, as well as handling site delivery, erection, supervision, and commissioning).

Construction of the project is expected to cost CHF990 million ($950 million). A groundbreaking ceremony was held in June 2009 and the project is expected to begin operating in 2015, becoming fully operational by 2017.

Investors are examining the possibility of increasing capacity to 900 MW, which would involve raising Vieux Emosson Dam by 15 to 20 meters and installing two additional turbine-generator units. Project design work and environmental impact studies are under way, and a decision is expected by the end of 2010.


CSG Power Generation Company, a group company of China Southern Power Grid Co. Ltd., is developing the 1,280 MW Qingyuan Pumped-Storage Power Station in Guangdong Province.

The powerhouse will contain four 320 MW units consisting of pump-turbines, motor-generators, and associated equipment. Equipment installation is scheduled to begin in January 2012, and the first unit at Qingyuan is expected to be commissioned in October 2014.

Toshiba Corporation is supplying the pump-turbines, motor-generators, and associated equipment.

Reisseck 2

Austrian utility Verbund Austrian Hydro Power AG is moving forward with construction of the 430-MW Reisseck 2 project. This project is an addition to the six-plant, 138.1 MW Reisseck/Kreuzeck complex in Upper Carinthia.

For this facility, a 5 km-long tunnel will connect the Reisseck storage reservoir with the 730 MW Malta Hauptstufe plant. The existing Grosser Muhldorfer See Reservoir will be used as an upper reservoir in pump operation while the lower reservoirs will be the Gosskar and Galgenbichl reservoirs of the Malta power plant group.

Construction of the project, with an underground powerhouse, is expected to cost €335 million ($412 million). Construction began in the summer of 2010, with commissioning expected in 2014.

Poyry will provide engineering services and site supervision during construction.

New projects on-line

Europe is the most active continent in terms of pumped-storage development. For example, two projects reaching completion on the continent in the past year were the 185 MW Avce and the 2,268 MW Dnister installations. Development of these facilities involved investments of over US$880 million. In addition, one plant began operating in China.


The 185 MW Avce plant began producing electricity in April 2010 on the Soca River in Slovenia. Soske Elektrarne Nova Gorica d.o.o. developed the €122 million ($164 million) project to allow the country to use its nighttime electricity surplus to pump water into Avce’s upper reservoir so that electricity can be produced when prices are high.

The upper reservoir was built in a natural depression, using embankments to increase its storage capacity. The existing Ajba reservoir of the Plave hydro plant serves as the lower reservoir. The underground powerhouse contains a variable speed reversible vertical Francis pump-turbine.

Companies involved in developing Avce include Gorenje d.d.; HSE Invest; a consortium of Melco, Rudis, and Simitomo (which supplied pump-turbine and motor-generator equipment); Mikomi d.o.o.; Mitsubishi; Montavar metalna nova d.o.o.; and a consortium of Primorje d.d. and SCT d.d. (which performed civil construction).

Construction of this facility, which is expected to produce 426 GWh annually, began in December 2004.


The first unit at the 2,268 MW Dnister pumped-storage plant began operating in January 2010. This plant, on the Dnister River in Ukraine, is being developed by UkrHydro Open Joint Stock Company.

Construction of this project began in 1983 and is anticipated to cost UAH5.8 billion ($720 million). The first unit is expected to produce 240 GWh in 2010.

The second and third units are due to be operational in 2011 and 2012, respectively. In total, the plant is to contain seven identical units.

Emerson Process Management installed its PlantWeb digital plant architecture with the Ovation expert control system on Unit 1. This system monitors and controls all major equipment and processes at the plant, including the hydraulic turbine, pump-turbine generator, lubrication and cooling, drain and leakage systems, temperature monitoring systems, and auxiliary equipment.


The 1,800 MW Jixi pumped-storage project began operating in July 2010 in Anhui Province, China.

This project’s two reservoirs have a total storage volume of 21.85 million m3. Jixi is co-funded by State Grid, East China Grid, Jiangsu Electric Power, Shanghai Electric Power, Xuangcheng municipal government, and the local government. The total investment amounts to CNY8.2 billion ($1.2 billion).

Undergoing refurbishment and repowering

In many older pumped-storage facilities, refurbishment and modernization of equipment is needed to increase efficiency and capacity. The eight projects featured below each began operating between the 1930s and 1979. Total current capacity of the plants is more than 4,200 MW. Through refurbishment, upgrades, and repowering, more than 650 MW of new electrical capacity will become available.


New York Power Authority (NYPA) in the United States marked the completion of a four-year, US$135 million life extension and modernization program at its 1,040 MW Blenheim-Gilboa project in June 2010. This project, on Schoharie Creek in New York State, began operating in 1973.

In September 2006, NYPA launched a program to replace major mechanical and electrical components and perform maintenance and repairs to most other parts. As of May 2010, all four units operating at the installation had been replaced.

Companies working on this program include D.A. Collins Co. (refurbishing tainter gates), Hitachi America Ltd. (pump-turbine upgrade), and Northline Utilities (replacing circuit breakers).

Capacity of the project has increased to 1,160 MW.


The 420 MW Capljina pumped-storage project on the lower Trebisnjica River in Bosnia is undergoing rehabilitation. The plant, which began operating in 1979, contains two pump-turbines.

In November 2009, JP Elektroprivreda Hrvatske Zajednice Herceg Bosne d.d. awarded contracts for this project to Dalekovod/ABB joint venture (supplying 220 kV cables), ENERGOCONTROL Zagreb d.o.o. (supplying an excitation system and 35 kV switchgear), and a consortium of KONCAR Montazni Inzinjering d.d. and Fleck Elektroinstallionen GmbH (supplying 220 kV measuring transformers and surge arrestors).


Electricite de France is working to rehabilitate the 800 MW Revin project. Work being performed at this facility includes replacing spherical and auxiliary valves and related electromechanical equipment, replacing governors and excitation systems, replacing pump-turbine runners, and refurbishing servomotors and other components. The Revin plant was built in 1976.

Voith Hydro is replacing spherical and auxiliary valves and related electromechanical equipment.

Rodund II

Vorarlberger Illwerke is rehabilitating its 276 MW Rodund II plant in Austria, which was damaged during a fire in the summer of 2009.

The replacement of the reversible pump-turbine, motor-generator, and ancillary equipment will involve increasing the capacity of the plant to 295 MW. The old unit had been in operation since 1976. Only the powerhouse, spiral case, draft tube, and some mechanical auxiliary equipment will remain in place.

In July 2010, the utility awarded a €40 million ($49.3 million) contract to Voith Hydro to supply the equipment. The new unit is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2011.

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The rebuilt 440 MW Taum Sauk plant in Missouri, United States, began generating electricity in June 2010. The new reservoir has 30.5-m-high roller-compacted-concrete walls that impound a 5.7 million m3 reservoir.

Taum Sauk

The 440 MW Tauk Sauk hydro plant in Missouri, United States, began generating electricity in June 2010 after being out of service since December 2005. In that month, the upper reservoir’s mountaintop ring dam breached, releasing 5.3 million m3 of water down the Black River.

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Venda Nova Dam in Portugal is the site of a repowering project intended to add to the country’s hydro capacity. The original 90 MW powerhouse, which has been decommissioned, will be replaced with a 435 MW powerhouse.

The reconstruction of Taum Sauk included the creation of the largest roller-compacted-concrete dam in North America to impound a 5.7 million m3 reservoir, AmerenUE reports. The reservoir has 30.5 meter-high concrete walls, and 3.2 million cubic yards of concrete were used during construction.

The project cost US$490 million. The new structure has a higher dam crest to prevent overflowing, continuous video monitoring of the upper reservoir, and redundant water level sensors.

Companies involved include ABB (which supplied an instrumentation, control and electrical system package), Ozark Constructors (principal contractor), and Paul C. Rizzo Associates Inc. (design engineer and quality control manager).

Venda Nova 3

Energias de Portugal (EDP) is undertaking a “repowering” project at its existing Venda Nova Dam on the Rabagao River.

This 97 meter-high arch gravity dam was completed in the early 1950s. Original capacity of the plant at this site, which has been decommissioned, was 90 MW.

The repowering involves building a new powerhouse, Venda Nova 3, with a capacity of 435 MW. This repowering is part of a government program to make improvements to existing dams and hydro projects to increase their generating capacity. The program includes building 10 new projects and expanding five existing projects.

In March 2010, EDP awarded a contract for civil construction of the project to Reforco de Potential da Barragem de Venda Nova III – ACE. The contract has a value of €131 million ($179 million).

The project is expected to begin operating in 2014.


Society Electrique de l’Our (SEO) in Luxembourg is adding a pump-turbine to its 1,096 MW Vianden project.

This project, on the Our River on the border with Germany, contains 10 units. SEO is working to add a 200 MW unit to the powerhouse, which began operating in 1963. The unit will increase capacity as well as provide ancillary services (such as supporting voltage stability and black start capability).

Lahmeyer International performed the preliminary site study and detailed design for adding Unit 11. This work will involve extending the facility — including excavation of the machine cavern, a vertical shaft, and a pressure tunnel — and increasing the storage capacity of both reservoirs.

The expansion project is expected to require 48 months and to cost €150 million ($225 million).

Waldeck 1

The new 74 MW unit at the Waldeck 1 pumped-storage plant began operating in Germany in June 2010. E.ON Wasserkraft GmbH invested about €52 million ($63.1 million) in Waldeck 1 to realize a new, state-of-the-art station and to carry out rehabilitation of the existing plant from the 1930s.

The plant is on Lake Edersee near Waldeck in Hesse, Germany. As part of the rehab work, which began in April 2006, the upper reservoir was refurbished. The existing powerhouse contains four units with a total capacity of 140 MW.

Companies involved in the project include Bilfinger Berger AG (civil construction), Lahmeyer International (construction supervisor), and Voith Hydro Inc. (equipment supplier).


1Montoya, Alicia, “Maximizing the Efficiency of Renewable Energy,” Alstom, Levallois-Perret, France, 2009.



Looking to the Future

Many countries are looking ahead to their energy needs in the coming decades and planning construction of pumped-storage hydroelectric plants accordingly. Below is a partial list of projects planned for development:

— A 1,500 MW project in Son La Province in Vietnam (the first pumped-storage project in the country), construction is due to begin in 2013 and operation expected in 2018;

— Expansion of three existing plants in Spain through the addition of pumped-storage powerhouse facilities: 635 MW La Muela (adding 852 MW), 263 MW San Esteban (adding 177 MW), and 33 MW San Pedro (adding 25 MW); and,

— The 400 MW Iowa Hill project in California, United States, where construction is due to begin in 2011 and be completed in five years.

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