16.08.2018 | Axpo and its hydropower plants - Who recognises our assets?

Connected as a partner

Axpo has a large hydropower plant portfolio in Switzerland and has a 100-per cent share in some of them. Most of them, however, are partner plants. Many of these hydraulic plants have been organised in power plant groups. What does that mean? Find the explanations here - and participate in a quiz to boot.

Some 60 per cent the electricity produced in Switzerland comes from hydropower. A good thing because this is reliable, domestic production, and practically CO2-free, as well as storable and renewable. Switzerland is the leader - only Norway, Austria and Island have a larger hydropower proportion. As the largest Swiss producer of hydropower, Axpo makes a significant contribution to this leading position.

Today, Axpo is the owner or joint-owner some 60 hydropower plants in Switzerland. Most of the plants are organised as so-called partner plants. Partner plants?

Numerous hydropower plants were built in Switzerland and the Alps during the fifties and sixties. Power producers, the cantons and the local communities often joined forces in order to minimise the high construction costs and risks for larger plants, and to distribute the investments among various partners.

Who recognises the Axpo hydropower plants?

Our power supply assets are distributed all over Switzerland. Here is a map showing where Axpo is at home and where its pump, storage, run-of-river and small hydropower plants are located. And here's a photo series of the Axpo reservoirs, dams and power plants. Which ones are they? Go for it!

Let's get started. What do we see here?

Exactly, it’s the Muttsee. And 630 metres further down we have the Limmernsee. The dam is the longest in Switzerland with a length of 1050 metres and the highest in all of Europe (2500 metres a.s.l.). The Limmern pumped storage plant has a pumping and turbine capacity of 1000 MW

You might have to read and translate, or do you just know?

Of course, these are the Illanz power plants (Kraftwerke Illanz AG). They are owned by Axpo (85% ), the Canton of Grisons (10%) and the concessionary communities of Breil/Brigels, Waltensburg/Vuorz, Andiast and Ilanz/Glion

This reservoir is a popular bathing lake. Where is it?

The Klöntalersee is located above Glarus. It belongs to an Axpo high head power station with a powerhouse in Netstal

At least the hikers ought to be familiar with this reservoir, right?

We are in the Canton of Valais at the Mattmark Reservoir above Saas-Almagell. The lake is dammed by a 120-metre high earth-fill dam. The main owners of the Mattmark power plants are Axpo (38.8%) and CKW (27.78%). The average yearly production is 649 million kWh

Let's stay in the mountains. What's the name of this lake?

This is the Lag da Pigniu, also known as the Panixersee. The gravity dam is 53 metres high, 270 metres long and was built between 1984 and 1992. The Panixersee is part of Kraftwerke Illanz AG

This reservoir is also located in an idyllic setting. Beautiful, isn't it?

This is the Griessee with the Gries Glacier in the background. It is located in the Canton of Valais above Ulrichen. However, the water is used by Maggia Kraftwerke AG. "Officine idroelettriche della Maggia SA" (Ofima) is owned to 30 per cent by Axpo

And now it's down to the valley. Here's a hint: This is a small hydroelectric plant.

It's the Au-Schönenberg power plant located on the Thur River (TG) with an installed capacity of 2.1 MW. It is owned by Axpo

This is near a mountain pass. Where and what's the name of the lake?

We are on the Lukmanier Pass and the lake is called Lai da Sontga Maria. The Santa Maria Reservoir belongs to Kraftwerke Vorderrhein, a partner plant of Axpo, the Canton of Grisons and the concessionary communities. The plants have an installed capacity of 331 MW

Now we're on the Rhine River .... what's the name of this power plant?

It's the Säckingen power plant in which Axpo holds a 25-per cent interest. The power plant has an installed capacity of 73.6 MW

If you're from Ticino it will be eventually easier for you to identify this reservoir, right?

The Lago del Narèt is a reservoir in the community of Lavizzara at the end of the Maggia Valley. It belongs to Ofima and has two dams (a gravity dam with a crown length of 260 metres and an arch dam with a length of 449 metres)

And since that was so nice, here's another one from the same area....

The Lago del Sambuco. It’s located above Fusio in the Lavizzara Valley, a side valley to the Maggia Valley. The reservoir is dammed with a 130-metre high arch dam and has a depth of 110 metres at its deepest point

OK, this one is a bit easier. If you have good eyesight you'll be able to read it...

This is the Thusis powerhouse belonging to Kraftwerke Hinterrhein. KHR has a three-stage power plant group with storage, pumped storage and run-of-river power plants, a turbine capacity of 650 MW, and a pump capacity of 90 MW

A dam situated in a beautiful landscape. Where?

This is the Luzzone dam belonging to the Blenio power plants. The plants use the pitch between the Carassina Reservoir (1708 metres a.s.l.) and the Biasca power plant (279 metres a.s.l.). With 23 catchments, 90 kilometres of tunnels and pressure pipes, 3 dams and 3 power plants with a total installed capacity of 400 MW, they generate 835 GWh per year making them the second-largest hydropower producer in the Canton of Ticino

The dam in the Blenio Valley is an attraction for climbers and has the world's highest artificial climbing wall with a course measuring 160 metres

This lake is located in a spectacular landscape. Where?

This is the Gigerwald Reservoir, located in the Calfeisen Valley in the town of Pfäfers (SG). The Gigerwald Reservoir is part of the Kraftwerke Sarganserland (KSL) pumped storage plant built between 1971 and 1977 and is a partner plant of the Canton of St. Gallen and Axpo. It uses the water flowing from the upper Weisstannen Valley, the Calfeisen Valley and the Tamina Valley and generates an annual average of 460 million kWh of electricity

Now this is pretty round, don't you think?

It's the Valle di Lei Reservoir and its arch dam (max. height 138 m, crown length 680 m). It holds 197 million m3 of water and is the third-largest reservoir in Switzerland. It is located for the most part in Italy and belongs to Kraftwerke Hinterrhein (KHR)

This reservoir in the Canton of Grisons is known for the attractive colour of its waters. What's it called?

The Lai da Curnera is located in the valley of the same name in the town of Tujetsch in Grisons. The lake can be reached from the Oberalp Pass. Together with the Santa Maria and Nalps reservoirs it is part of a water management system connected with pipes and is part of Kraftwerke Vorderrhein

And now back to the lowlands. What's the name of this plant?

This is the Reckingen hydropower plant located on the Rhine River near the town of Rekingen in the Canton of Aargau. As a border power plant, it is owned to 50% by the German enwb, as well as AEW (30%) and Axpo (20%). It has an installed capacity of 38 MW

We've already mentioned this one in Energy Dialogue. Where are we?

The Mauvoisin Lake is located 2000 metres a.s.l. in the Valais Alps. It is part of the various power plant stages of Forces Motorices de Mauvoisin SA, in which Axpo and CKW hold a share of 68 per cent

And last but not least, something very special. This is...

...the Verzasca dam is 220 metres high and famous for the stunts performed in the film "Golden Eye" with Pierce Brosnan as 007 James Bond. It is still used for public bungee jumpying - this dam is not part of Axpo's portfolio. But it is impressive just the same

KHR as example

Let's take an example from the Canton of Grisons. Kraftwerke Hinterrhein AG (KHR) operates a partner plant that is owned by several shareholders: Axpo (19.5 %), the city of Zurich (19.5 %), the Canton of Grisons (12 %), Alpiq (9.28 %), BKW (7.72 %), Repower (6.5 %), the concessionary municipalities (3 %), IWB (2.50%), as well as the Italian Edison S.p.A. (20 %).

These partners carry KHR's investment and production costs based on their shareholdings and in return receive a proportionate volume of produced electrical energy that they can market and sell in their distribution regions.

Grouped power plants

In the Swiss mountains many power plants have been arranged in so-called power plant groups and are connected hydraulically. In this way, the water can be used several times by a cascade of power plants and water reservoirs. The individual power plants must be optimally coordinated in terms of energy efficiency. A downstream power plant must be able to use the water inflow from the higher plant immediately or store the water in a compensating or storage reservoir. As a rule, the power plants are connected by means of pressure pipes and tunnels.

See how that works in the example of Kraftwerke Zervreila (KWZ) in which Axpo holds a 22-per cent interest:

1. Dam Zervreila; 2. Power station and Equalizing reservoir Zervreila; 3. Schütze Peilertal: 4. Equalizing reservoir Wanna; 5. Power station Safien Platz; 6. Equalizing reservoir Safien Platz; 7. Power station Rothenbrunnen; 8. Equalizing reservoir Egschi; 9. Power station Realta
Map and graphic: KWZ

More details can be found here. German only 

36,666 GWh of hydro-electricity

According to the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, a total of 1350 hydropower plants in Switzerland produced 36,666 GWh of electricity in 2017. On the average, 48 per cent of this electricity comes from storage power plants, 47.6 per cent from run-of-river power plants and about 4.4 per cent from pumped storage power plants. Around 63 per cent of this energy is generated in the mountain cantons of Uri, Grisons, Ticino and Valais.

More about Axpo hydro power can be found in this video:

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