Water enters energy channel

Grodno hydro-electric station is unique in Belarus, as innovation approach, laying foundations for future launch of range of modern hydro-electric stations
By Yevgeny Semiletov

Nieman’s character dictates
Some final strokes are being made to major construction works in the Grodno Region: hydro-facility tests and the decoration of surroundings. No doubt, the station is amazing in its scale. An observation platform and recreation zone is to appear for visitors, creating an attraction in the region. Water flows into the reservoir from upstream of the Nieman, covering 42km.
Energy workers and ecologists are continuing to debate the hydro-power station, which has an operational life of around 100 years (although equipment needs replacing after about 60 years). It should pay for itself within 25-30 years, with the cost of hydro-technical equipment comprising just 15-17 percent of the station’s total cost. Accordingly, it is not too expensive to replace obsolete equipment, while the station can operate at least double the length of time of organic fuel power stations, compensating for the high cost of building.

Ecologists are pleased to note that the Grodno hydro-electric station’s operation will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by around 70,000 tonnes annually while its water reservoir (covering 1,940 hectares) will expand the region’s recreational possibilities, including water tourism. International contests could even be hosted. Moreover, the Avgustovsky Canal has been recently reconstructed.

Energy workers assert that Grodno’s station will fit in well with the ‘character’ of the Nieman. How is the river ‘liaising’ with the station?

Fear of flood
The village of Khomiki, in the Grodno District, is among those settlements located along the banks of the water reservoir. Svisloch, Dekalovichi, Doroshevichi and Vitki (Kvasovo Village Council) are also affected, as the Chairman of the Council, Viktor Gidrovets, notes. He tells us, “Some villagers are worried about possible flooding — especially those living in Dekalovichi, which is low lying. Residents still remember the awful flood of 1958, when they had to be evacuated. Unsurprisingly, they are concerned by the future station. However, they are feeling calmer now, even those who were quite sceptical previously. Many people have benefited from the construction works, as the value of their houses — situated in this picturesque place — has risen several fold.

In the past, water run-off from the Nieman was naturally governed; now, it is being controlled by man, so villagers actually have less to worry about regarding flooding. “Our reliable facilities and control of water flow will allow us to handle the greatest floods — even those which occur once every 200 years,” explains the Director of the Directorate for the Nieman hydro-electric station’s construction, Vladimir Rukavitsyn. 

Why is the river becoming more shallow?
Villagers used to be afraid of spring floods, but Nieman water levels are actually falling. The Ministry for the Environment of Lithuania has told Belarus that, last July, the water level on its territory fell below the normal nature-protective sanitary level. The Department for Hydro-Meteorology, of Belarus’ Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, answered Lithuania’s request for information, explaining that hot weather and little rain is the cause. 

The Department for Hydrology at Grodno’s Regional Centre for Hydro-Meteorology and Monitoring of the Environment explains that, this year, the Nieman’s lowest water level was 30cm; however, it is now rising daily. According to Grodnoenergo specialists, as soon as the water reservoir becomes full, the water level in the Nieman will stabilise — weather conditions allowing. 

Interestingly, Grodno hydro-electric station has already produced its first energy: two out of five blocks have completed 72-hour testing. According to specialists, the station will soon be ready for launch, acting as a model for other hydro-electric stations countrywide. It’s a promising avenue for Belarus, enabling the country to diversify its energy supplies and strengthen its energy security.
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