The Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) has signed a 10-year, €10 million loan agreement with Finnish Kuurnan Voima Oy, with the funds to be used to refurbish an existing hydropower plant and build a new, small-scale hydropower plant on the Pielisjoki River in North Karelia, Finland.

The Kuurna hydropower plant was originally built in 1971, and it has two Kaplan turbines that currently have a combined production capacity of 18MW. The NIB loan will finance the refurbishment of these turbines, the generator and the automation system. In addition, both the dam structure and the waterways will be refurbished.

The total investment amounts to EUR 20 million and includes the construction of an additional, small-scale power plant with two 1MW turbines in the Kuurna spillover channel. The new Laurinvirta hydropower plant will use 15% of the Kuurna plant’s water flow and has an annual production capacity of 18MWh, of which approximately 4GWh is additional capacity for the total output of the Kuurna plant produced during floods. This is expected to result in approximately 5,000 tons of CO2 emission avoided annually.

The Kuurna floodway is the original reproduction ground of the critically endangered landlocked salmon. Kuurnan Voima Oy launched a collaborative project to support the natural reproduction cycle of the landlocked salmon by creating a spawning and breeding area in the Kuurna spillover channel in 2015. The aim of the Laurinvirta project is to enable landlocked salmon to reproduce naturally for the first time in half a century.

The Laurinvirta fish spawning area project significantly reduces the productivity of the hydropower plant because the plant will assign some of its water fall to the spawning area. The installation of an additional, small-scale hydropower plant at the top of the floodway is meant to both secure the water supply for the spawning area, as well as harness additional energy from the spillover water flow and, thus, increase the overall productivity of Kuurna.

“Supporting renewable energy and the energy transition is at the core of NIB’s mandate, and therefore it is vital for us to advance sustainable energy projects in our member countries. This project is also a great example of successful collaboration between multiple stakeholders and the energy industry, all working together for an environmental cause,” said Henrik Normann, NIB President & CEO.