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FEATURE STORY

Safer and Cleaner Power in Ukraine

February 29, 2012

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Ukraine’s modernized hydropower stations will give a boost to the energy sector, and be safer, greener and more efficient.

In 2008, one of Ukraine's power plants along the Dniester river withstood the force of a disastrous flood that took the lives of 39 people and swamped tens of thousands of houses. Had the reservoir not been able to contain the huge amounts of floodwater, casualties would have been much higher. This was an important reminder - both of the purpose of the reservoirs, and the need to keep them well maintained.

"The station proved its strength in 2008 and in 2010. Last year, twice during the summer, the level of the water flow was 4,000 cubic meters per second. Usually, the water flow is about 200-300 cubic meters per second," says Volodymyr Shevchuk, Director of the Dniester Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Above providing the electricity that drives the Ukrainian economy, and drinking water for local populations, each hydroelectric station is first and foremost tasked with protecting millions of people from possible floods. For that reason, in Ukraine, most hydro-power stations have been built in densely populated areas, with each reservoir holding millions of cubic meters of water – water that needs to be controlled.

Yet, not all dams are adequately maintained.

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We have been cooperating with the World Bank during the last 13 years. Besides the new equipment that we have installed, our personnel has received new skills on how to work with state-of-the-art turbines, generators, and systems of control and monitoring safety. Close Quotes

Volodymyr Shevchuk
Director of the Dniester Hydroelectric Power Plant

With support from the World Bank's Hydropower Rehabilitation Project, UkrHydroEnergo, which manages the Ukrainian power grid, is increasing the safety and efficiency of its hydroelectric plants, as well as their capacity. The state-owned company operates nine hydroelectric stations on the Dnieper and Dniester rivers with a total capacity of 3,900 megawatts.

The Kremenchug Plant, for example, has a new way of measuring water pressure in its dam and reservoir using special pipes with sensors. Drilled into the body of the dam, the sensors constantly control information about the ponds' water level and the water pressure of the Dnieper River. The Kremenchug hydroelectric power plant alone has about 100 such controllers.

"We update the information each hour. We know the level of dam maintenance, and we can predict any changes in the core of the dam. This system enabled us to raise the safety level significantly," says Oleksiy Sklyar, engineer of the Kremenchug Hydroelectric Power Plant.

These changes in safety measures are coming online as UkrHydroEnergo upgrades its creaking infrastructure.

While safety is first, ecological concerns come a close second. Ukraine suffered greatly from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster and so, where the country's electricity comes from is important to its citizens. Working closely with ecologists, plant engineers regulate the levels of water in reservoirs, since every artificial lake provides drinking water to thousands of cities and villages, and is also used for irrigation—both in Ukraine, and in neighboring Moldova. When modernized, the hydropower stations will significantly improve their reputation as a green and renewable energy sources, with low levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Efficiency is important, too. About 50 new turbines have been replaced at nine hydroelectric plants.

"We have been cooperating with the World Bank during the last 13 years. Besides the new equipment that we have installed, our personnel has received new skills on how to work with state-of-the-art turbines, generators, and systems of control and monitoring safety," says Volodymyr Shevchuk.

The modernization of the hydroelectric plants aims to boost the Ukrainian energy sector by increasing power production and installing new technologies, giving all Ukrainians access to a safer, greener and more efficiently managed energy system.