Start of construction on the Limberg 3 pumped storage power plant


By 2030, Austria’s electricity should come 100% (nationally, on a balance sheet basis) from renewable sources of energy. The Limberg 3 pumped storage power plant, whose start of construction was celebrated today, will make an important contribution to this. In particular, to make electricity available from forms of generation dependent on the weather and time of day when it is actually used.

Kaprun has a long tradition of hydropower. With the ceremonial start of construction on the Limberg 3 pumped storage power plant, another chapter was added to that story today, Friday. Michael Strugl, Chairman of the Executive Board of VERBUND: “Nowhere is the importance of hydropower for Austria and VERBUND so clear as here: Kaprun is one of the key pillars of the Austrian power supply. The €480m investment in the pumped storage power plant is making that supply even more stable.” 
In this context, Strugl reminded everyone of climate change: “The success of the energy transition is in the global public interest. We must therefore move away from the climate of prevention towards a climate of enabling.” An important aspect of this is honesty, because “the invisible, traceless energy transition will not happen if we have to reduce domestic, renewable generation by 27 billion kilowatt hours to achieve the target set for 2030 – that is more than double electricity generated on the Danube each year.”  

Salzburg: Strong in hydropower

Provincial governor Wilfried Haslauer stressed during the launch ceremony the importance of climate and energy policy: “Intelligent climate and energy policy is without doubt one of the biggest political challenges of our time. Our energy policy in Salzburg not only aims at climate protection and long-term security of supply, but also sees competitiveness as making an important contribution to increasing value added and the creation of jobs. We also want to consciously use the economic opportunities presented by the necessary energy transition. Innovation, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and a choice of energy form to suit the location play an important role. With the Limberg 3 project, we are undoubtedly underscoring our strengths and consistently pursuing our path of implementing the objectives of our climate strategy for 2050,” said Salzburg’s provincial governor Wilfried Haslauer.

Rapid action

VERBUND Chairman of the Supervisory Board Martin Ohneberg spoke about also being able to reach the prerequisites, the set targets: the goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 is already a familiar one. With the Renewable Energy Expansion Act, there is also a framework. What we need now are projects that also generate the required electricity. We have no time to lose and cannot afford an approach that slows us down on our journey to the renewable future. I find construing this as some attack on the rule of law to be a malicious insinuation. Taking action on the highest level and ensuring rapid implementation are not a contradiction but the order of the day – and the standard to uphold in comparison with the rest of the world.

Challenges of the future

The massive expansion of renewable generation also comes with new challenges, as VERBUND Executive Board member Achim Kaspar emphasised: “This is where hydropower is a reliable factor and an ideal partner in a future of electricity that is free of CO2. The trump card of hydropower is its versatility, which is quite clearly being put to the test here in Kaprun. No other technology is capable of storing electricity so efficiently and in such grand style, and then making it available in a highly flexible manner when it’s needed. Hydropower is the enabler of the energy transition.”

Investments in the location

The importance of Kaprun and the resulting ongoing investments in the location were addressed by Michael Amerer, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH. “In the last 10 years alone, we have invested almost €900m in Kaprun, including Limberg 3. These are investments in the location, in the renewable energy future, but above all also in the domestic economy: when we invest three euros, the domestic economy as a whole benefits by two euros. Two thirds of value added remains in the country. Each million invested additionally secures more than seven full-time jobs.”

Kaprun essential 

Karl Heinz Grubber, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH, addressed the outstanding technical details of the Green Battery in Kaprun: “In Kaprun, we are showing the potential that is also to be found in existing plants. The two large reservoirs with a total capacity of 160 million m³ enable the construction of a further, powerful flexibility package in addition to the Limberg 1 and Limberg 2 power plants already in operation. After its completion in 2025, Limberg 3 will be able to make an important contribution to blackout prevention in record-breaking reaction time with the two, 240 MW, highly flexible pump turbines. With the additional power, up to 100 new wind turbines or 100,000 home PV systems can be substituted or supported in seconds. Kaprun, which has a total of over 1,100 MW of power, will thus become an essential power bank for the safe, clean and affordable supply of electricity in Austria.

About the Limberg 3 project

The Limberg 3 power plant, which was approved in 2017, is a pumped storage power plant with a total capacity of 480 megawatts. Like Limberg 2, which was put into operation in 2011, it will be constructed entirely underground between the two existing reservoirs of the Mooserboden (final level 2,036 m) and Wasserfallboden (final level 1,672 m).

Upon completion, Limberg 3 will be a power plant whose design is tailored very specifically to the future needs of the energy transition. Special machine sets with variable speed-controlled pump turbines will be used that are able to react extremely flexibly to the increasing need for balancing and control energy in the grid. Given the increasing requirements caused by the expansion of volatile forms of generation, these are important services for grid stability – one of the main prerequisites for a safe and affordable electricity supply.
It is also planned to raise the final level of the Wasserfallboden reservoir by 8 m, in order to provide not only additional flexibility, but also additional storage capacity. The required increase in the height of the Limberg barrier can be achieved through existing construction reserves while maintaining unrestricted dam safety.
In addition to the underground construction method, the overall project also encompasses a large number of ecological measures. A special highlight is the construction of the 24 hectare European conservation area “Alpine Alluvial Land Drossen”, which extends into the Drossenschlucht ravine. Below the dam, a project will also be implemented that aims at eliminating traces from the construction period of the 1950s by means of land restoration.

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Limberg 3 pumped storage power plant