New Forces Motrices Hongrin-Léman SA power station is fully operational
The new Forces Motrices Hongrin-Léman SA (FMHL+ project) power station has been fully operational since the beginning of 2017. The FMHL pumped storage power station has thereby doubled its pumped storage capacity from 240 to 480 megawatts (MW), including a 60 MW reserve. In spite of the particularly difficult conditions for hydroelectric power, the FMHL pumped storage power station is making a significant contribution towards Switzerland's security of supply and represents an indispensable complement to the new renewable energies.
After more than 10 years of planning and construction, the two new pumped storage units of the FMHL+ station at Veytaux are now operational. The definitive commissioning of the first FMHL+ machine group took place before Christmas, followed by the second group at the beginning of this year. The FMHL power station, comprising the four existing machine groups at the Veytaux power station, along with the two new FMHL+ machine groups, can now operate with a maximum turbine output of 420 MW (with a 60 MW reserve). Conversely, it can also pump water from Lake Geneva to the Hongrin reservoir, 880 metres further up, with a capacity of 420 MW. The power plant will generate approximately 1 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of peak electricity per year, equivalent to the consumption of almost 300,000 households; almost twice the power generated before the construction of the new machine groups (520 million kWh).
An investment to supplement new renewable energies
The CHF 331 million invested by the FMHL partners - Romande Energie (41.14%), Alpiq (39.29%), Groupe E (13.14%) and the City of Lausanne (6.43%) - are completely in line with the current European energy policy context, Pierre-Alain Urech, Chairman of FMHL's Board of Directors explains: "FMHL represents an indispensable complement to the new renewable energies. It is essentially an energy reservoir that can be fed into the grid at any time and offers an immediate and effective solution for the mitigation of energy shortages and the storage of surplus electricity. In the face of the continued growth of fluctuating electricity generation from wind and solar plants, such solutions are indispensable in order to maintain the stability of the Swiss and European grids".
The importance of pumped storage power stations for the security of supply and grid stability will thus increase in the coming years. For example, during the Christmas holiday period while European electricity consumption was at its lowest, the new FMHL+ power station made it possible to pump over 20 million cubic metres of water into the Hongrin reservoir, which had a low water level on 23 December 2016. Subsequently, the FMHL power station was able to generate 30 million kWh between 30 December 2016 and 8 January 2017, when a cold snap increased the demand for electricity.
Nevertheless, FMHL+ is becoming operational at a time when the economic context for hydropower is difficult. Wholesale prices on the electricity market are low and the regulatory framework conditions do not currently allow the economically viable operation of such power stations.