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Story | 05/06/2021 07:24:05

Renewable hydropower generates flexible power

UPM Energy’s hydropower plants respond to the ever-increasing need for renewable energy. Weather-independent hydropower provides quick balancing power for an electricity system that is growing more and more on intermittent solar and wind power.

“Hydropower is the only renewable energy source used to balance the variations in demand for electricity that is easy to adjust and store. Since there is virtually no more locations for hydropower plants in Finland, we must increase the production capacity of our existing plants,” explains Ari Henriksson, Director of Energy Generation at UPM.

UPM Energy has eight hydropower plants and owns significant shares of other energy companies’ plants. At present, UPM is gradually renovating and modernising the hydropower plant of Kuusankoski. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2022. Most of UPM’s hydropower plants have been built between the 1930s and 1950s and extensive renovations have been realised in the past few years. The most recent comprehensive renovation project was completed in 2017.

“Technology has improved so much that modern turbines and generator units generate significantly more power from the same amount of water. We have estimated that the average energy production volume at Kuusankoski will increase by more than 8% from the current annual volume of 180 GWh to around 195 GWh. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of electricity used by 800 electrically heated single-family houses in a year. We will also replace the automation system to improve the plant’s adjustment functions,” says Henriksson.

Means to achieve emission reduction goals

UPM Energy is the second-largest electricity producer in Finland and a major player in hydropower production. 98% of the electricity produced by UPM Energy is CO2-free.

Ambitiously towards a future beyond fossils

As companies abandon coal-fired condensing power plants, hydropower offers a more sustainable option as a source of balancing power. Hydropower plant production can be started, adjusted and stopped quickly and used to balance production and consumption. Furthermore, hydropower is a cost-effective way to produce electricity. Hydropower plants have a long service life with low operating costs.

“The renovation in progress at Kuusankoski will ensure another 40 years minimum before the plant has to be renovated again,” Henriksson estimates.

Protection of aquatic ecosystems

Emission-free hydropower does, however, impact the environment by altering river flow rates and their ecosystems. In addition to statutory fisheries levies to mitigate the effects of production, UPM has taken voluntary measures to protect and restore migratory fish stocks.

“Our Migrating Fish Programme strives to remove obstacles of fish migration and test new innovations to restore fish stocks all around Finland. Our latest project under this programme was the demolition of the old mill dam and mill at the Sapsokoski site in Sotkamo last autumn,” says Henriksson. New potential projects, both for the removal of migratory obstacles and for new innovations to revitalize fish stocks, are actively being sought and identified.

Learn more about UPM’s migrating fish programme here.