Günther Rabensteiner, the VERBUND AG board member responsible for electricity generation, emphasised the role of hydropower as a reliable renewable energy source in the Alpine region and its contribution to the energy revolution: "VERBUND, now in its 70th year of existence, is one of Europe's largest hydropower companies, and with its more than 120 power plants, it has always kept - and continues to keep - its regional responsibility in focus. It is therefore with great pleasure that we will be realising a project in a close regional partnership together with Stadtwerke Schwaz and under the auspices of the Province of Tyrol. Austria is in the very fortunate position of being able to use the power of water. Development with moderation is the order of the day, in light of current developments under the banner of decarbonisation of the energy sector. The Unterer Tuxbach project will contribute towards keeping clean electricity affordable for Tyrol and all of Austria. Because Austria's domestic hydropower, which by now covers more than half the domestic electricity demand, already has decades of tradition, whereas elsewhere it is called an energy revolution."
Michael Amerer, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH, likewise emphasised the company's local anchorage: "With our facilities, we are deeply rooted in the region. The power plant group ensures that important decisions are made locally. With the central control station Zillertal Valley, there is a contact person available around the clock – for cases when a quick response is vital. That we are prepared to invest 60 million euros in Unterer Tuxbach owes to the good long-term partnership we have with the region. Also with the knowledge, based on experience, that between 70 and 80% of the investment sum for our projects remains in the region or province as added value, the long-term participation of the valley community in the success of hydropower by means of the Zillertal Valley agreement, means entering the electricity future together."
The special energy-economical significance of the undertaking was highlighted by Karl Heinz Gruber, Managing Director of VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH: "The Zillertal Valley has great significance for our energy future. Already today, with our eight hydropower plants, we are generating 1.6 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity from the domestic hydropower resource. With this, we are not merely covering the needs of almost 460,000 households; the flexible and powerful machine units and storage facilities are also making an important contribution towards integrating the volatile production from sources such as wind and photovoltaics. The Unterer Tuxbach project means an efficient expansion of the green battery in the Zillertal Alps for the coming decades."
"Stadtwerke Schwaz has been active in hydropower since 1897 and ranks among the electrification pioneers in Tyrol. Out of this 120-year passion for the regional energy resource of hydropower, the desire has arisen to strengthen our own production base and reduce our dependence on the electricity exchange. So now, in partnership with VERBUND, we are pleased to be able to bring this well-planned facility to implementation at one of the most suitable locations in Tyrol, and to create long-term value for the next generations in the same way former generations have done so for us", Hans Lintner, mayor of the city of Schwaz and Owner Representative of Stadtwerke Schwaz GmbH, was pleased to communicate.
Vice Governor Josef Geisler emphasised the significance of hydropower for Tyrol: "Hydropower plays an essential role in Tyrol's energy strategy. With the Unterer Tuxbach power plant project we are coming another large step closer to achieving our goal of becoming energy autonomous by 2050 and covering our energy demand from renewable domestic energy sources. VERBUND AG is using the sustainable expansion potential for hydropower in the region and continuing the partnership-based approach of shared ownership with the Zillertal Valley to promote the success of hydropower. This is how the energy future works!"
Water from the Stilluppbach Stream, the Tuxbach Stream and the Zemmbach Stream has been used for clean electricity generation in the Bösdornau power plant for nearly 90 years. For the time period following 2019, when the power plant's concession period will have expired, an ecological and economical succession plan has been developed and approved. To do this, an underground connection will be created between the Tuxbach Stream and the Stillupp reservoir, and at the end of the connecting passageway at the junction with the reservoir, a green power plant with an output of approximately 1.7 MW will be constructed. By means of a unique combination of the new connecting passageway and linkage to the existing Mayrhofen power plant and the new Stillupp small hydropower plant, a total of an additional 74 million kilowatt hours of domestic hydropower electricity can be generated annually - to provide more than 20,000 households with CO2-free electricity. Implementation of the project will take approximately 3 years.
Agreements are being implemented
Numerous project-related agreements have been made in connection with the Unterer Tuxbach project. The Zillertal Valley agreement was already amended in 2015, guaranteeing that the valley community will continue to profit from the success of clean hydropower and that the towns' financial flexibility is increased. In addition, numerous other commitments will be honoured, such as establishing a stretch of water for water sports in the course of dismantling the Zemm dam in Mayrhofen. The flooding protection measures in the Ufersiedlung area will also be improved. VERBUND's commitment to maintaining the Zillertal Valley central control station in Mayrhofen was renewed during negotiations.
Within the municipal district of Finkenberg, the existing Tuxbach hydropower facility will be closed. The dismantling of the Grossdornau basin belonging to the power plant, as negotiated with the town, will create free spaces which are available to the town for other uses. Moreover, the pipelines to the Bösdornau power plant, which are currently above ground, will be relocated below grade in the Grossdornau area.
Waiver of water catchment use
It was likewise negotiated that VERBUND will forego use of the Stillupp water catchment in the future. Furthermore, the existing water catchment on the Tuxbach Stream will also no longer be used. In the existing Bösdornau powerhouse, therefore, only one machine unit will be operated with the water of the Zemmbach Stream to cover the power plants' own needs and to ensure the cold start-up ability in the event of a large-scale power outage. With this, it remains possible to restore the supra-regional power supply step by step, starting from these facilities. This remaining usage of the Bösdornau power plant also ensures that the power plant building, which was built from 1928 to 1930 and is attractive for reasons of industrial history, survives as a part of Tyrol's and VERBUND's history of hydropower.