Energy cascade generated from cascade of water
Vitebsk Region launches largest hydroelectric project in country’s history
By Sergey Gomonov
On the Zapadnaya Dvina, a cascade of four hydroelectric power stations is planned to open by 2018, with a total capacity of over 120 megawatts: enough to satisfy six cities with a population of 100,000 people. Construction has begun on two such plants — in the Vitebsk and Polotsk districts; the Verkhnedvinsk and Beshenkovichi plants will follow.
The village of Luchno is 10km from Polotsk, boasting one of the most powerful rivers in Belarus. It’s the ideal spot for a hydroelectric power station. In fact, the Zapadnaya Dvina River has the most such potential of all our rivers, being fast flowing and over 150m wide. The Polotsk District’s section is to be dammed, so that a hydroelectric power plant can be built 25m tall. Water will then pass through a controlled artificial channel. About 100,000 cubic metres of sand have already been ordered, ready to make cement for the structure.
Vitebskenergo is a customer of the construction of the Polotsk and Vitebsk hydroelectric power stations while Minsk’s Belnipienergoprom has designed the project. The tender for construction was won by Russian Technopromexport, which is known for building power plants in Asia, South America and Africa during the Soviet years. It even constructed Aswan hydroelectric power plants on the Nile, where the dam is over 110m tall.
Vladimir Komissarov, Chief Engineer for Technopromexport in Belarus, is based at the Chuvash hydroelectric power station: the large complex on the Volga. He notes that Polotsk’s hydroelectric power plant will be more modest, explaining, “Its water, turning the turbine, will fall from 8m above: quite sufficient to produce electricity. Czech firm Mavel is to supply the equipment which will be installed for launch by the summer of 2015.”
The dam’s height remains modest to ensure that nearby villages and farmlands are safe from flooding. Dmitry Tarasenko, Deputy Director of HPP construction in Polotsk for Vitebskenergo, tells us that water levels around Luchno won’t exceed those seen during spring floods, so no residential resettlement will be necessary. Only the levels around Turovlyanka and Ulla rivers will rise, necessitating new bridges: the usual approach.
Polotsk’s HPP is being built with funds from the Eurasian Development Bank while Chinese corporation CNEEC will build the plant near the Vitebsk District’s village of Bukatino, with help from Chinese Exim Bank for the purchase of Chinese equipment. Beshenkovichi and Verkhnedvinsk’s plants are to be built by Turkish company CET, at its own expense; it will then own the sites for 30 years, after which they’ll be given freely to Belarus: the first such co-operation with foreign investors for our country.
Lukoml state district power plant produces about 40 percent of the country’s electricity at present, burning natural gas; of course, this means dependence on imported raw hydrocarbon. By harnessing the natural power of water, Belarus will be taking steps towards fulfilling its energy security plan. By 2020, this aims to reduce dependence via the use of renewable and alternative energy sources.
Of course, the other advantages of hydroelectric power are that it’s cheaper and more eco-friendly. Polotsk’s station alone will save over 35,000 cubic metres of standard fuel annually, worth about $7.5m. The money can then be spent on other projects in the energy sector. The Zapadnaya Dvina cascade will also slow the flow of water, allowing freight traffic and tourist cruising to take place, thanks to the locks which will be in operation. Near reservoirs, we may see recreational areas, lodges and fish farms appear, inspiring wider development of the economy and boosting infrastructure.
The Vitebsk Region already has six mini hydroelectric power plants on its smaller rivers, with a combined capacity of just over 2 megawatts.