Power plant Gries: Secure electricity supply thanks to local generation

6/13/2019Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße

Hydropower is the stable foundation of local, renewable electricity generation. The new joint venture power plant of VERBUND and Salzburg AG on the Salzach in Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße, Gries district, is capable of supplying 10,000 households with electricity. It thus makes an important contribution to achieving climate and energy targets.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the joint project of VERBUND and Salzburg AG took place in September 2016. The project, which was implemented with the involvement of around 100 companies, was made possible by the province's support in putting infrastructure measures related to the power plant in place for the municipality. For example, thanks to funds from the community compensation fund, a permanent exit from the B311 was constructed near Oberhof.

Governor Wilfried Haslauer stressed the importance of the power plant for the province of Salzburg: “The Gries power plant makes an important contribution to the implementation of our climate and energy strategy. Hydropower has a high priority in Salzburg. The power plant investments amounting to around 50 million euros provide a strong regional economic stimulus, create and secure jobs, supply clean energy and contribute to the achievement of climate targets. The province is therefore supporting the municipality’s power plant-related infrastructure measures with around 4.2 million euros from the community compensation fund. This makes an essential contribution to the facilitation of this important project.”

Wolfgang Anzengruber, CEO of VERBUND, was pleased about the successful and accident-free implementation of the project: “Hydropower is our drive and our energy. Hydropower is the most important domestic source of energy and makes a clean energy future possible – as well as making us less dependent on imports. VERBUND electricity comes almost 100% from renewable sources, with around 130 VERBUND hydropower plants across Austria making an important contribution to this. In 2018, the climate was spared 22,411,000 tonnes of harmful emissions. The emissions associated with the construction of the power plant can be offset with 3 months of power plant operation.”

Leonhard Schitter, CEO of Salzburg AG, says, “For Salzburg, the Gries power plant is a decisive contribution to the energy revolution. It is our thirtieth hydropower plant. The electricity that we supply to our customers already comes 100 percent from renewable sources. We generate just over 50 percent of this from regional sources. By 2020, we want to increase this share of own generation to 60 percent for electricity and 50 percent for electricity and heat combined. This would enable us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost one third. The Gries power plant is making an important contribution to this.”

Special thanks went to residents living around the Gries power plant at the opening ceremony. All the speakers were unanimous: “A construction site in the neighbourhood is a challenge. We would like to thank the residents for their understanding and patience – even if this has sometimes been strained.”

Partnership with tradition

Gries is not the first joint venture project of VERBUND and Salzburg AG. All five power plants between St. Johann and Pfarrwerfen on the Salzach were built as part of a partnership that has endured for 40 years. These power plants on the Salzach are examples of how power plant buildings can be developed and implemented in a sustainable way – despite major construction measures and earth movements. In addition, power plants offer real added value, as Michael Amerer, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power, emphasised: “Of the 50 million euros invested, around 20 million euros went towards infrastructure and protective structures. By way of comparison, the amount spent on civil engineering in Salzburg in 2018 was slightly less than 500 million euros. The experience from our projects also shows that, in addition to pan-regional value creation, concrete stimuli are also created for the regional and local economy.”

Continuity for aquatic life and bed loads

The removal of barriers to aquatic life has become part of everyday life on the Salzach. For example, the Gries power plant has been equipped with a modern fish bypass, allowing the Salzach to remain unobstructed. By adding a near-natural section parallel to the reservoir, it should not only ensure fish migration but also create a new habitat. In order to demonstrate how the fish bypass is working, monitoring will take place in the coming months.
Karl Heinz Gruber, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH, made reference to the extensive planning and optimisation phase of the Gries power plant: “The intensive examination of the construction plan resulted in rescheduling and adjustments. Instead of arranging weir fields on one side and machine sets on the other, as was the case with the previous Salzach power plants, the weir fields in Gries are arranged in the middle of the river, with one machine set on the left bank and one on the right. In addition to advantages in the construction process, this design also offers advantages for bed load passage.”

Hydropower – the reliable partner

Electricity generation from hydropower has the highest degree of efficiency compared with other methods such as solar or wind. The turbines and generators can convert up to 90 percent of the hydropower used into electricity and feed it directly into the grid. Hydropower can also be planned and calculated, placing the basic provision of electricity on sound footings. 

Technical specifications of the Gries power plant
   
 Output 8.85 MW
 Standard working capacity 42 million kWh
 Flow rate 115 m³/s 
 Head 8.9 m
 Turbines 2 Kaplan bulb turbines
 Total investment 50 million euros