Ukraine is not Italy, Transcarpathia is not Tyrol, or Why they will build small hydroelectric plants in Transcarpathian region under the European project
Three new small hydro power plants (in addition to five existing ones) will be built in Transcarpathia. Projects of small hydropower plants for Carpathian mountain rivers are being developed by the Austrians, who have designed and built dozens of small hydropower plants in South Tyrol. This region is located in northern Italy on the border with Austria directly in the Alps - the mountain terrain similar to the terrain in Ukrainian Transcarpathia.
The Italian has invested EUR 30 million in hydroelectric plant and will wait 30 years to pay-off
Hydroelectric plant in the Italian town of Rio de Pusteria replaced the old one within 18 months.Its capacity is more than 20 thousand kilowatts. The updated derivational hydropower plant now produces 25% more power and has reached more than 100 million kilowatt-hours per year. Today it is the most modern hydroelectric power station, which operates in South Tyrol. There are two large and two small intakes there. They are also the longest ones.
Only a small part of the hydroelectric facilities is on the mountain river. Most of the equipment is in underground tunnels. All designs of Tyrolean hydropower plants are as close to nature as possible, both in appearance, and in the use of eco-friendly technologies. Therefore, no bulky industrial facilities can be seen in the landscape of the local Alps.
The owner of the power plant in Rio de Pusteria Helmut Frasnelli explains how to build hydropower plants which would be approved by locals: "We took part in the competition for the construction of hydropower plants along with five other companies.And we won the project because we offered to dismantle the old outer pipes and hide turbines and the entire hydroelectric system in the tunnel. You see, if a power plant is underground you can not hear any noise from its work and also can not see it. All the equipment is situated in two mines stretching for 800 meters. Local people clearly approved our project."
The total estimate of the project is 28 million euros. Mr Frasnelli plans to return the investments in 30 years. The Italian can afford to wait three decades to return the investments, because he makes money in the construction industry. Hydropower plants for him are extra business.
Transcarpathian experience from mistakes
Small hydropower plant in the village of Turya-Polyana in Perechyn district of Transcarpathian region is 20 times less productive than the Italian one. Built from the ground in a year, the plant cost 20 million hryvnias. It should pay off in 7-8 years. Too much concrete and too small fish passage - these shortcomings were noted by European experts who have seen the power plant with their own eyes. Ukrainian owners are discussing how to improve the facility. The director of the PE "Komertskonsalt" Andriy Hanzel does not deny the flaws and adds: "We plan to adjust the fish rassage, because it is not as effective as planned. We will use the experience of people working in this field for over a hundred years that have had their mistakes and will help us in planning.We can avoid the same mistakes and will do everything at the highest level."
Transcarpathians demand electricity for next to nothing
But the biggest trouble for investors, who are building hydropower plants in Transcarpathia, is the reaction of local residents. People have contradicting opinions about new buildings on the mountain rivers. And they are convinced that the proximity to HPS must bring them direct economic benefits.
A resident of the village of Turya-Polyana in Perechyn district Natalia Gutnyk elaborates: "We would like to see at least a 50% reduction of the fee for electricity. We pay a lot - a hundred-something hryvnias per month. Why should we pay so much while there is a plant in our village that uses our natural resources? Why should we have to pay the full cost of electricity!?"
Other issues are the lack of tangible benefits for local population, environmental damage, and drying of mountain rivers beds.
Cheap energy is a utopia, the most important thing is that it is "clean"
In Ukraine, as in Italy, the electricity produced by hydroelectric power plants first goes to the public grid, and only then is distributed by government agencies according to the needs of population. And Tyroleans did not receive cheaper energy after the opening of hydropower plants. The argument, that satisfied the residents of Italian region, is not the low cost of electricity but the environmental friendliness of the source that produces it. In this case, it is water.
Experts from South Tyrol are currently developing three projects for small hydroelectric plants in Transcarpathian region.
The designer Mr. Deng argues that in Transcarpathia there are all conditions to build small hydropower plants. "Geographical features of the Carpathians allow to build HPS here. - Adolf Deng said. - The only difference is that your mountains are not as steep as ours, therefore more pipes will have to be laid. But anyway, it is economically advantageous. We will apply all our experience to make the most advanced project."
To build and not to harm
Tyrolean biologists constantly monitor the ecosystem around the hydropower plant. They carefully make sure that flora and fauna of the local rivers is not changed during the construction and operation of hydroelectric power plants. This is the responsibility of the biologist Kurt Kustacher. The scientist does not deny the negative impact, but "of course, HPS influence the environment.The same as a person influences nature by just walking in the forest. The question is HOW we influence and whether we allow nature to recover from this influence. This rule applies to the construction of hydroelectric power stations: to build so as not to harm."
The system of the hydroelectric power station in the town of Fortezza is also fully automated. Here, they installed special equipment to collect garbage that gets into the water, including leaves.
"Treatment of the water passing through the HPS is a prerequisite of the plant operation.Without it, it is not possible - the owner of the HPS in Fortezza Alexander Plunger says. - The trash, that we collect, under no circumstances can be returned back to the river. It is disposed of as any other debris. Only pure water returns to the river, ie to the ecosystem."
Lopukhovo is waiting for... small hydroelectric power plant
A hydroelectric power plant of the same system as in Fortezza will be built in the Transcarpathian village of Lopukhovo in Tyachiv district. Yuri Korolyshyn explained that such hydroelectric power station is suitable primarily because of the intake area, it is 300 square kilometers, in Lopukhovo the site is 325 square kilometers.What is important is that there are moving dams there, which is very useful during floods. Wnen the water level increases, dam boards are lowered, and thus the site increases. And the water level in the river does not rise. That is, the plant has no effect on flooding, which is important in Transcarpathia."
Is it possible to combine HPS and tourism? In Italy, it is.
South Tyrol is a tourist region. Extensive hotel network and proximity of ski resorts attracts thousands of tourists. This does not prevent more than 960 small hydropower plants, more than 800 of which are privately owned, to operate there. By the way, the territory of South Tyrol is less than half of Transcarpathian region, where there are five small hydropower plants.
We asked the mayor of Rio de Pusteria Christoph Prugger if it is possible to compine HPS and tourism: "Our region is a tourist one.But HPS, and in our town with a population of three thousand residents, there are four of them, do not hurt tourism at all. HPS is a clean energy, replacing the nuclear power that is much more harmful. In the 1930s-40s, in the South Tyrol, by the way, people were not very positive about HPS. Today, the community has positive attitude, of course, provided that HPS are built without harming nature."
In South Tyrol, they have long desided that they are for green energy. In the late 19th century, giving up heat power plants, Tyroleans began to actively build facilties on mountain rivers. And now they have achieved their full autonomy from imported energy, because they produce 177% of electricity themselves and sell the surplus to the general grid. Independence for Tyroleans is another strong argument in favor of clean water energy.
However, Transcarpathia is not Tyrol, Ukraine is not Italy. The experience of small hydroelectric power plants construction according to the project of European experts - may (no illusions) influence the further attitude to this construction in Transcarpathia. Because so far, it has not been well...
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