Vattenfall has announced it is working towards raising the available output of the company’s hydropower plants by 600MW by 2023 without a single new dam being built. The move will help gain greater flexibility in balancing more solar and wind power.

Vattenfall invests SEK 1 billion per year in hydropower maintenance. A major project has been under way since 2015 to upgrade the power plants and raise their output and flexibility. The primary purpose of the project is to improve the ability to respond faster to changes in the need for generation, rather than to generate more electrical power.

Around 20 power plants have already been upgraded in various ways, increasing the available output by around 450MW.

"In most cases the efficiency and output of the plants is improved after the renovation, as new turbines, generators and transformers are more efficient than the ones being replaced. In other cases, other measures are being taken, such as reviewing the Land & Environment Court rulings and obtaining new ones," said Tord Eriksson, Head of Production, Vattenfall Vattenkraft.

Extensive investigations have revealed the potential operational restrictions of each power station. In many cases these restrictions are due to technical limitations, but in other cases it may be the result of old Land & Environment Court rulings.

"In 2017 we got permission from the Land & Environment Court to increase diversion of water to Lasele and Långbjörn Power Stations. This enabled us to increase output from these stations by 27MW. This ruling sets an important precedent, and shows the way forward for further applications for increased water diversion," explained Eriksson.

An additional measure is to shorten shutdown times for maintenance and investment measures.

“By following the unit on a weekly and monthly basis, we can make comparisons with averages for previous years and see at a glance what improvements we're making over time," added Eriksson. "Now we are working towards raising the available output of our hydro power plants by 600 MW by 2023. We've already ticked off the measures that were easy to implement; in other words, we've picked the low-hanging fruit. Now we're left with the more complicated measures, which means that it'll take longer to reach the last megawatt than it took us to get to where we are today.".

Vattenfall owns around 100 hydro power plants in Sweden, with a total output of approximately 8700MW.


* Look out for our May issue of the print journal which will feature more details on the Vattenfall project and other refurbishment projects worldwide.