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Hüscherabach: A state-of-the-art small hydropower plant in harmony with the energy strategy and the environment

Lausanne – Today, Alpiq and the municipality of Rheinwald jointly inaugurated the completely refurbished Hüscherabach small hydropower plant in Splügen (Swiss canton of Grisons). The modernised and significantly expanded hydropower plant now produces approximately 6.1 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity from renewable energy a year. This corresponds to the average annual consumption of 1500 households.

In July 2021, after only 16 months of construction, the completely refurbished small hydropower plant in Splügen once again started harnessing water from the Hüscherbach stream to generate electricity from renewable energy. This Saturday, it was officially inaugurated with speeches by Christian Simmen-Schumacher (President of the municipality of Rheinwald), Thomas Schmid (Head of the Canton of Grisons Office for Energy and Transport), Xavier Sinnhuber (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Wasserkraftwerk Hüscherabach AG) and Matthias Zwicky (Head of Generation International and Renewable Energies, Alpiq). During an open day, the local population was given the opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes of environmentally friendly electricity generation.

Significantly more electricity: 6.1 instead of 1.1 million kWh per year

The new, state-of-the-art power plant will replace the old plant, which was built in the 1930s and which was owned by the municipality of Rheinwald. The new power plant will increase the production of renewable, domestic energy by a factor of almost six. Energy production will increase from 1.1 million kWh to around 6.1 million kWh per year, which corresponds to the average annual consumption of approximately 1500 households.

The new plant thus achieves a substantial increase in output and production and is fully in line with the Swiss federal government’s Energy Strategy 2050. Hydropower is Switzerland’s most important renewable energy resource. Its potential should be harnessed as optimally as possible – among other things with the considerable expansion of existing plants, as has now been achieved at the Hüscherabach. The small hydropower plant with a high head of water (238 metres) uses the Hüscherabach stream, which flows into the Hinterrhein river near Splügen. The high-pressure plant consists of a water catchment, a 2,240-metre penstock and the power station, which houses a 1.95 MW Pelton turbine. In spite of the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic, the construction work took only 16 months. Local companies also played a part in the construction process.

Reaffirmation of the partnership

Alpiq and the municipality of Rheinwald invested approximately CHF 8 million in the construction of the small hydropower plant. The two partners own 60 and 40 percent respectively of Wasserkraftwerk Hüscherabach AG. The project is being supported by the Swiss federal investment incentive programme for the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. Alpiq and the municipality of Rheinwald are long-standing partners and have been jointly operating the Tambobach small hydropower plant in Splügen since 2012. This exemplary and fruitful partnership enables the municipality to continue developing the local economy alongside tourism and agriculture.

Measures to benefit the environment

The rebuilding of the existing hydropower plant was supervised by environmental specialists. A number of measures were implemented to reduce the environmental impact of the power plant. Among other things, these address the protection of fish: At the water intake, which is located near the Marble Bridge on Splügenstrasse, fish can descend into a basin, and a fine screen ensures that no fish can enter the headrace system. In addition, a natural residual flow in the stream is ensured thanks to dynamic discharge dosing.

Wasserkraftwerk Hüscherabach AG is also contributing funds towards a comprehensive ecological compensation scheme for the revitalisation of the Hinterrhein river where it flows through the municipality of Rheinwald. With this project, the river bed of the Hinterrhein will be widened, thereby restoring the river as far as possible to its original morphology with a branched course. The revitalisation of the Hinterrhein in the Aebi region will promote the diversity of aquatic and terrestrial habitats, enhance the landscape and increase its attractiveness as a recreational area for both the local population and tourists. It is scheduled to be implemented over the coming years.

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