News that Georgia is to further exploit its huge hydropower resources, but to export much of their output to neighbouring Turkey, seems to present growing evidence of a trend. Well-blessed with hydro resources, Georgia is set to develop three new stations in the Paravani river basin with a combined annual output of about 277 GWh. Construction is to begin in 2012, with all three in operation in 2016. Indeed, some 17 new hydro plants are expected to be built in Georgia by 2015, exporting around 1 GW to Turkey.
As our cover story on page 14 reveals, to facilitate such developments, in August 2010 Siemens Energy announced it is to install two HVDC links between the two countries as part of the Black Sea Transmission Network Project. The two 350 MW links are worth about €170 million (US$235.6 million), with the first link due on line in May 2012 and completion a year later. Georgia also has looked at developing a transmission system that includes neighbouring Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Meanwhile, a subsidiary of the UK's Scottish and Southern Energy plc (SSE) has signed a cooperation agreement with three Norwegian utilities and Swedish company Vattenfall to investigate the feasibility of building an HVDC link between the UK and Norway. A program of work over the next three to four years will examine the technical and economic viability of developing, building, and operating a 550-700 km-long interconnector, designed to allow electricity flow in both directions.
Ian Marchant, SSE's chief executive, observed: "Increasing interconnection between networks is likely to be an important feature of the electricity industry in Europe as the drive to maximize supplies of secure, low-carbon sources of energy increases over the next two decades. Scotland and Norway have rich and diverse natural resources from which to produce large amounts of electricity, and an interconnector could allow the potential of those complementary resources to be fulfilled."
Norwegian hydro capacity also features in a recent US$180 million deal for ABB from Statnett of Norway and Energinet.dk of Denmark for a 500 kV HVDC interconnection between the two countries' power grids. The 700 MW link will boost transmission capacity between the mainly hydroelectric-based Norwegian system and wind and thermal power-based Danish system, ABB says. The company adds that the interconnection will enable both networks to add more renewable energy to their mix and to use electricity more efficiently. It is scheduled for commissioning in 2014.
These developments could herald the emergence of the international hydro plant that maximizes the flexibility and in some cases storage capacity of one country's natural resources in response to more complex flows of renewable energy generated from resources that are potentially more abundant in neighboring lands. As a concept, this not only opens up the prospect of a truly international power market, which can only benefit energy consumers, but perhaps more importantly it offers an opportunity for hydropower to take its rightful place at the heart of the modern energy mix.
P.S. Don't forget, our May-June issue will contain our annual Buyer's Guide, an invaluable resource to the companies providing products and services to the international hydro industry.