VERBUND is investing more than half a billion euros in the energy future


At today’s balance sheet press conference for financial year 2020, VERBUND Chairman of the Executive Board Michael Strugl presented two important projects for the CO2-free energy future in Austria. VERBUND is investing more than half a billion euros in the construction of the pumped energy storage projects Limberg III (Kaprun, Salzburg) and Reißeck II+ (Reißeck, Carinthia). Apart from their special energy-related significance for a sustainable and secure power supply, the projects’ implementation also represents a powerful boost to the domestic economy for overcoming the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

VERBUND CEO Michael Strugl says: “The existence of large, flexible pumped storage power plants is fundamental for the success of the energy transition towards a CO2-free electricity supply. It is these plants that make the integration of electricity from volatile forms of generation such as wind and solar possible in the first place. Here at VERBUND, we are making an important contribution to this by strengthening our existing green batteries in the Alps. Until further notice, pumped storage plants are and will remain by far the most efficient means for storing electricity cleanly on a grand scale and being able to cover spikes in demand in no time at all.” 
Michael Strugl also underscores the economic importance of the projects in light of the efforts made to overcome the economic crisis caused by COVID-19: “The investments are resulting in notable economic impulses with the high level of domestic value added, especially in times like these: two thirds of the investments in the electricity industry remain in Austria as value added. The investment of around half a billion euros will also safeguard about 3,500 jobs.”

Limberg III

The power plant project Limberg III was approved in 2017. It is a pumped storage power plant with an output of 480 MW and is located in Kaprun. Like Limberg II, which was put into operation in 2011, it is being constructed entirely underground between the two existing reservoirs of the Mooserboden (final level 2,036 m) and Wasserfallboden (final level 1,672 m). 
Once complete, Limberg III will be a power plant whose design is tailored quite specifically to the future needs of the energy transition. Special machine sets will be used that are able to react with a high degree of flexibility to the need for balancing and control energy. 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. The required increase in the height of the Limberg barrier can be achieved through existing construction reserves while maintaining unrestricted dam safety. The approval documents required for this will be submitted to the relevant authority in the coming weeks.
The overall project also encompasses a large number of ecological measures. A special highlight is the 24 hectare European conservation area “Alpines Schwemmland Drossen”, which reaches into the Drossenschlucht gorge. Below the dam, a project will also be implemented that aims at eliminating traces from the construction period of the 1950s by means of rewilding. 
Construction will commence in the early summer of this year. By 2025, a total of around 480 million euros will have been invested in future-orientated electricity generation and storage – including a high degree of regional value added.

Reißeck II+

Since the initial operation of the pumped storage power plant Reißeck II in 2016, the Upper Carinthian power plant group Malta-Reißeck has been one of the most powerful hydropower plant groups in Austria with a total of 1,460 MW. The existing reservoirs on the Reißeck lake plateau, the Großer and Kleiner Mühldorfer See lakes, have been used by Reißeck II as upper storage ponds since the 1960s. The two reservoirs are hydraulically connected to each other, with the Kleiner Mühldorfer See lying about 80 metres higher than the Großer Mühldorfer See. 
In order to also be able to use this height difference in future for energy purposes, a new underground cavern power plant with two pump turbines and a total output of 45 megawatts is being built at about 2,300 metres above sea level. This will make “Reißeck II+” an efficient extension of Reißeck II, because it will be possible to optimise the system as whole by relocating the contents of the Großer Mühldorfer See to the upper reservoir. The approvals for this were already granted together with those for Reißeck II. 
Here, too, the total investment of about 60 million euros will deliver important regional economic stimuli and permanent jobs. And this in addition to the already ongoing modernisation works on the Malta power plant group worth around 100 million euros.
Once the necessary preparatory works have been completed, construction is scheduled to commence in the spring of 2021. From 2023, the new pumped storage power plant in combination with the existing plants should serve to support the integration of wind and photovoltaic systems in Austria and continue to serve as a support pillar for grid security.

Media spokesperson for Salzburg, Tyrol and Bavaria

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