24 February 2014 saw the first disclosure by VERBUND, Austria’s leading electricity company and operator of Bavaria’s Inn power plant, on the current considerations concerning the modernisation of the existing hydropower plant of Töging-Jettenbach. Following the fundamental approval by the Bavarian Parliament for the modification of the framework agreements in relation to the power plant, the company is now intensifying investigations into whether and how the almost 100-year-old hydropower plant can be furnished with modern technology. It is not just the prevailing legal, technical and general ecological conditions that are to be considered here, the matter of the preservation order is also to be taken into account. In an initial discussion with media representatives, the newly formed project team presented the upcoming plans and demonstrated that investment in the Töging site brings enormous opportunities for the future of the region. Alongside the economic and regional political impetus, the gentle expansion of hydropower also represents an important part of Bavaria’s sustained energy future.
A hydropower project of such magnitude, as represented by the modernisation of the Inn power plant of Töging-Jettenbach, requires an experienced team of experts and a competent project leader for a successful planning and implementation. In Töging, on the afternoon of 24 February 2014, VERBUND Innkraftwerke GmbH presented the core team headed by VERBUND project manager Bernhard Gerauer. Bernhard Gerauer comes from the region and has already gathered initial experience in the planning of other hydropower plants in Lower Bavaria. Directly at his side in their capacity as experienced hydropower experts are the deputy project manager, Martin Kratochwill, plant group manager of VERBUND Inn power plants, Klaus Schöler, and ecology coordinator Dr. Patrizia Dreier, who is well-rehearsed this matter.
More production from the available supply through modern hydropower technology
"The Inn is the most plentiful of Bavaria’s rivers and still exhibits a certain additional production potential," advised the new project manager, Bernhard Gerauer. "In view of the energy turnaround, we have given some thought as to how we can better utilise the existing water supply in the Inn canal through the application of new hydropower technology. If our initial deliberations may still be implemented following intensified planning, we will in future be able to supply some 35,000 private households with electricity from domestic hydropower. And we will be able to do so without additional transverse structures." This figure roughly amounts to the number of private households in the towns of Töging, Altötting and Mühldorf.
Geraruer explained the next steps in the project: "There are still several very important constraints to be clarified in the initial phase. In addition to the legal and technical restrictions, we must take the ecological requirements and the interests of the preservation order into account. When all of these aspects have been brought to the table, the planner and ecologists may begin with their work and we can develop the project further."
In concrete terms this means that, in 2014 and 2015, the project team further prepare the comprehensive approval documents in the areas of technology, environmental sustainability, water and so on in order to then submit the documents in summarised form to the responsible authorising body in 2015.
Hydropower as an opportunity: Electricity from the region for the region
If it can be implemented, this investment represents an important energy and economic boost and an enormous opportunity for the entire region. First and foremost, the site around Töging is set to benefit economically from the modernisation– as has been proven by comparable VERBUND hydropower projects, whether that be in the building industry sector, or in the hospitality and retail trade.
In future, the Töging site will be able to generate a greater volume of clean hydropower from the region for the region, whereby the decentralised power supply and regional independence will be reinforced. As an important advantage, the Töging site offers the existing infrastructure (power plant areas, control rooms, power lines etc.), which may also be used after the modernisation.
"Hydropower has a long tradition in Bavaria," advised the group manager of the Inn power plants, Klaus Schöler. "For around 100 years, clean energy has been generated in and for Bavaria through the power of the Inn. The gentle expansion of CO2-free hydropower at existing sites and the long-term safeguarding of energy supply are our daily bread and can be developed as an important part of Bavaria’s energy future."
Improvement of the environmental quality
Modernisation, as it is planned in Töging, can be carried out with minimal encroachment on the water system. Ecology coordinator, Dr. Patrizia Dreier, added: "Through the project on the Inn, we simultaneously want to improve environmental quality, enhance the general living conditions for diverse species of fish and create an attractive fluvial topography for man and nature." The river should be transformed into something that can be experienced and into a recreational area within reach of the towns.
"Although the construction period will be a temporary intrusion, what is important is the subsequent result that we are able to improve something from an ecological perspective," said Dreier and pointed to the upcoming ecological works such as population surveys of the habitats, flora and fauna and the development of ecological measures. Just how such freshwater ecological measures could look is shown by the numerous structuring measures that have already been implemented by VERBUND on the Inn, or which are currently undergoing construction. It’s a question of fish ladders, the creation of gravel banks, the reconnection and removal of undergrowth from backwaters, as well as the renaturisation and structuring of riverbanks. "We now already know that, between Jettenbach and Töging, the Inn still offers many possibilities for the implementation of improvement measures, which will benefit the different species of flora and fauna in the water and on the land," said Dreier.
In the coming weeks an experienced team of ecologists and environmental auditors will be brought together and, along with the technical planners, will develop the necessary landscape ecology-related documents for approval.
VERBUND and domestic biodiversity
VERBUND is known for its promotion of biodiversity, which it has been carrying out for years. To-date, VERBUND zones on the scale of almost 4,000 hectares in the areas of hydropower plants and line routes have – following their construction – been declared areas worthy of protection. This roughly corresponds to the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park in the northern Hesse administrative district of Waldeck-Frankenberg. Many protected species are to be found in the conservation areas, some of which have resettled after a longer period.
Just how VERBUND concretely takes care of the environment in Bavaria is impressively demonstrated by a multitude of fish-friendly and ecological improvements on the Inn, which have been implemented in recent years. In recognition of its efforts, the electricity company has even received the 2013 environmental prize from the association of hunters and fishermen in the Rosenheim area.
Furthermore, it is intended that a passage for fish and other aquatic organisms be put in place from Rosenheim right through until Stammheim by 2015: The fish ladders required for this purpose are currently being planned or are already under construction.