Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant: accident, preservation, recovery

What will the suspension of construction of Zagorskaya GES-2 do to RusHydro?

“RusHydro has developed a plan for temporary shutdown of construction of Zagorskaya SPS-2 in the Sergiev Posad district of the Moscow Region. The company may announce its official position on the project at the Investor Day on December 19.

“RusHydro started building Zagorskaya HPP-2 in 2008 and was going to launch the plant in six years, but in September 2013 stopped the work due to partial waterlogging. The Market Council, which is responsible for organizing electricity and capacity trading, postponed the commissioning of the plant until 2019-2020, but RusHydro never resumed construction. In August 2015, Evgeny Dod, CEO of the company and a veteran of RAO UES of Russia, resigned after a scandal over the embezzlement of 1 billion rubles during the construction of Zagorskaya HPP.

Zagorskaya HPP-2 was supposed to produce 1,000 million kWh per year, or 2.5 percent of the energy produced by RusHydro’s power plants in the central region in 2016. Aton analysts in their daily review assessed the news about possible preservation as negative for RusHydro: the company invested 70 billion rubles in construction, and now it will have to show in its statements a loss from impairment of these investments. In addition, the situation may lead to a fine from the Market Council.

Anatoly Vakulenko, an analyst with Finam, believes that the negative effect of the decision to mothball is significant, but medium-term. He expects that RusHydro will probably be able to launch the plant before 2023. In this case, the losses associated with the project freezing will be partially compensated.

On Monday, December 18 RusHydro shares lost 3.12% and are trading at 0.8 rubles per share. The company’s shares may continue to fall to 0.7 rubles on the back of the news about conservation, forecasts Kirill Yakovenko of Alor Broker. According to him, investors are still reacting with restraint, because probably not everyone has realized that the news about the suspension of Zagorskaya’s restoration means a probability of partial or full reduction of dividend payments. “The current negative of the refusal to restore Zagroskaya HPP on the Russian stock platforms could easily be overlooked against the background of the pre-New Year rally – this should be taken into account, so the main sales in RusHydro securities may start after the New Year vacations. The company’s management will try to give a positive assessment of what happened at the meeting with investors on Tuesday, December 19, and this will also support the optimism in the securities for some time,” Yakovenko argues.

There is another angle to RusHydro’s intention to freeze the project. Georgy Vashchenko, head of the Russian stock market operations department at Freedom Finance Investment Company, notes that in general, the use of the hydroelectric plant in the Moscow region may not be quite effective due to climatic and price constraints: prices in the first price zone change little and the plant risks being severely underutilized. Besides, the expert reminds that the construction cost increased greatly due to the depreciation of the ruble since 2008 and the need for emergency recovery work, the cost of which was estimated at 20 billion rubles, i.e. 45% of the original estimate. The final unit cost of construction may rise from $880 to $1300 per KW, and then Zagorskaya GANP-2 risks becoming the most expensive power plant in terms of the cost of actually commissioned capacity, says Vashchenko. At the same time, the commissioning dates have already been postponed many times without any penalties, and a similar option is possible here. “I don’t agree with the negative assessment of this news for RusHydro shares. The issue of penalties is uncertain, while the savings of at least 20 billion are evident,” sums up the expert.

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“RusHydro is an energy company that owns most of the country’s hydro power plants, is one of Russia’s largest generating companies in terms of installed capacity and is the world’s second largest hydro generating company. The holding includes more than 70 power plants: hydro, tidal and geothermal. RusHydro’s net profit under IFRS for 9 months of 2017 decreased by 17.6% year-on-year to 30.8 billion rubles. The state owns a controlling stake in RusHydro.

Hydroelectric pumped storage power plant on the Kunya River

Zagorskaya hydroelectric pumped storage power plant is a rare facility for the Russian power industry. The plant is located near the village of Bogorodskoye and supplies energy to the Moscow Region.

Zagorskaya is one of two pumped-storage power plants operating in the Russian Federation. The abbreviation “GANPP” can mislead a person who is not familiar with the terminology. This is not a hydroelectric power plant, because there is no dam on the full-flowing river, and not a nuclear power plant, because there is no reactor. What is Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant and how does it work?

What is a hydroelectric plant

In the Middle Ages, a hero named Robin Hood appeared in England. He became famous for robbing the rich and giving away the loot to the poor.

Robin Hood’s true motives were known only to himself. Evil tongues said he only gave away a small portion. The rest was either embezzled or resold. When he did manage to get hold of a family jewel, he would sell it for three times the price to those from whom he took it away. After all, the most selfless acts are often based on self-interest.

From the moment the energy industry was born in the world, the neo-Robin Hoods were born who wanted to make a side profit from this new kind of value. Thus were the birth of hydroelectric power plants.

The scientific explanation of hydroelectric power plants is somewhat evasive: hydroelectric power plants are hydroelectric power plants, designed to equalize the daily fluctuations in electricity consumption.

If translated into easy to understand language, it would mean that hydroelectric pumped storage power plant, which buys electricity for next to nothing in order to sell it at a higher price.

How it works

Electricity is generated by hydropower plants, nuclear power plants, and thermal power plants. They usually operate at full load, regardless of the time of day, season and weather conditions. During the day the product they produce is actively consumed by households and businesses, but consumption decreases at night. This leads to a big difference between the cost of electricity during peak periods and at night. To put it simply, there is barely enough electricity during the day and almost no one needs it at night, which becomes a big disappointment for producers and they are happy to sell electricity at night to anyone, even for next to nothing.

It was for the purpose of buying up cheap electricity and reselling it later that hydroelectric power plants began to be built. The mechanism of a hydroelectric power plant is not very complicated. This is two large reservoirs, located at different heights, generators and pumps. Having purchased cheap electricity at night, hydroelectric power plants use it to pump water from the lower reservoir into the upper one. In the daytime, when electricity consumption increases, the pumped-storage power plants discharge water, generating expensive daytime electricity, which they sell to consumers.

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Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant

In the Soviet Union, the question of the creation of pumped-storage power plants was raised quite late, when there were already at least 400 of them all over the world. By and large in the USSR, for a long time, hydroelectric power plants were not necessary for many reasons.

  1. In the absence of private ownership of the means of production, it was nonsense for the government to buy electric power from itself and resell it to itself.
  2. In the large territories of the USSR, the population was not very compact. Electricity consumption by the population was small – a television set, refrigerator, washing machine, iron and three or four light bulbs per family.
  3. Electricity production was inexpensive, as were the prices for it.
  4. The first Kuban hydroelectric power plant in the USSR primarily served the function of regulating water in the Stavropol Canal, and electricity generation was a by-product.

With the emergence of megacities, problems also appeared. It was not even a question of making a profit at a hydroelectric plant. Under the conditions of the Cold War, the issue of energy security in cities, and particularly in Moscow, became acute. These plants could become a link that would ensure emergency power supplies. In addition, hydroelectric plants were already being built all over the world, and the country of victorious socialism could not allow the sharks of capitalism to pull ahead in this segment of the race track.

Where is Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant located

Of course, it was decided to build the plant closer to Moscow. The area of the construction was the medium-sized river Kunya in the place of its passage near the village of Bogorodskoye, Sergiev Posad district, Moscow region.

Initial conditions were so-so, but we do not need any special conditions. There would be a natural source of water and the possibility to build an additional upper accumulation basin. The high banks of the river Kunya provided just such an opportunity.

We must think, the builders have suffered a lot from the geological and weather conditions of the construction site of the hydroelectric station. If you do not go too deep into the description of the geostructure of Kunya banks, its terrace and floodplain, it turns out that it is clay on a layer of older clay, lying on the clay of the Middle Quaternary glaciation. And all this with a tendency to landslides with very high annual precipitation. That is, during construction, everything that could, or slipped, or sagged, or got wet.

Nevertheless, the construction was completed on time and to a high standard, and the plant has been operating properly for many years, bringing profit to its new owners.

The first and second stages of the hydroelectric power plant

The First Stage of the hydroelectric power plant is exquisitely called what was built under the Soviet regime, and the Second Stage, respectively, is what has been under construction under the auspices of RusHydro since 2006, at a distance of about 80 meters from the First Stage.

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Both Phases I and II have approximately the same structure. These are the station nodes, water conduits where water moves at a high pressure, reversible water intakes, turbines, and two pools each – the upper and lower ones.

Station Nodes.

Essentially, the station nodes are the center of what governs the actions of all the components of Zagorskaya HPP, the administrative and production center.

The building of the station node of the first stage is not a small one – 178 x 73 x 50. It has 3 hydraulic units, a system of pumps, a turbine with a diameter of over 6 m, bridge cranes and much more.

The station unit of the Second Stage of the Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant is somewhat different from the designers’ idea. But since the junction has not been completed, it is difficult to say whether it will ever meet the stated parameters.

Upper storage basin of the First Stage of Zagorskaya HPP

From the name itself it follows that the basin is located above the level of the river Kunya. Technically, the upper storage basin is a reservoir for filling with water, and it is connected with the lower basin by a system of reversible water intake and pressure pipelines, located at a slope.

The full capacity of the upper basin is 30 million m3 . That is how much water is pumped into it from the Kunya River using that very cheap electricity. What happens is as follows:

  1. During a drop in mass electricity consumption, the Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant turns on its hydroelectric units. Six pressure pipelines, each more than 7 meters in diameter, go into the pumping position, the pumps are switched on, and the river water is pumped into the upper basin. When the basin is full, the pumps are turned off, cutting off the backflow of water.
  2. By the time the peak consumption of electricity arrives and its cost increases accordingly, Zagorskaya HPP begins to generate electricity to sell it quickly at a bargain price. Pipelines come in to discharge water from the upper basin into the lower basin. The water is discharged at tremendous pressure, driving the turbines.
  3. The generated 4.6-5.2 mln kWh of electric power goes to the Moscow and Moscow Region power grid, reaching the end users.
  4. From the moment the consumption drops, the cycle repeats all over again.

The surface area of the upper basin of Zagorskaya HPP is 2.6 km2 .

Reversible water intake

It is a reinforced concrete structure 102 meters long, 70 meters wide and 48 meters high. The inlet has six water galleries, one for each pressure pipe. In essence, the reversible inlet is the link between the basins and the pipeline, taking all the pressure of the water coming from below or above. It is located in the area of the upper storage basin.

Pressure pipelines

This is the most beautiful element of the Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant, which tourists and journalists love to take pictures of. The view of 6 huge pipes, descending at an angle of 10° from the hill, where the upper pool is located, is really impressive. The slope itself, on which the pipes lie, is equipped with a multistage plate, something subtly reminiscent of the legendary stairs from the film “Battleship Potemkin” by S. Eisenstein.

It is through these pipes, connecting the reversible water intake with the building of the hydroelectric power plant and the river, that the profits of the power plant figuratively flow.

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The pipes are reinforced concrete, multisectional, with a 10-mm inner steel shell. The length of each pipe is almost 800 meters.

Lower storage basin

The lower reservoir is actually a reservoir built by Soviet builders on the Kunya River by damming the river with earth.

The dam is almost 800 meters long and the height of the soil embankment is close to 30 meters. At the base of the dam are two spillways located at the very bottom to regulate the volume of water in the reservoir. Given the instability of the soil, the Soviet builders firmly reinforced the dam with reinforced concrete slabs. According to the plan, the lower basin is to be common to both stages of the Zagorskaya HPP. The capacity of the reservoir allows it. The total volume of the basin is 40 million m3 .

Fiction or the Second stage of Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant

It is necessary to say that the construction of the second stage of the power plant started very briskly in 2006. Of course, the builders are far from Soviet pace, but still the joyous reports came one after another. Digging the foundation pit, laying the first stone in the hub building, delivering the turbines and generators, approving the State Expertise Commission, concreting and much more – everything was going according to plan for the pride of the country. But then misfortunes began to fall on the Second Stage:

  1. The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs is opening a criminal case over the theft of a billion rubles during the construction of the second stage. RusHydro wanted to cover up the trouble with the billion rubles, but V.V. intervened at the wrong time. Putin, in his usual manner, said his strongest “fi”. RusHydro could not oppose the highest decree and wrote a statement to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
  2. On December 19, 2012, the tower crane collapses. Three workers die in the collapse.
  3. On September 18, 2013, water breaks through under the engine room and the plant is flooded, along with the ultra-modern equipment. The engine room itself is severely depressed. A criminal case was also initiated on this fact.

Who is to blame and what to do

The age-old Russian question “Who is to blame?” has not yet been answered. At first it was blamed on the loose layers of clay in the soil. The clay rejected the accusations, citing as an example the unshakable structures of the First Stage. Then the blame was shifted to the substandard concrete, and finally to “Hydroproject” as the designer of the Second Stage.

It is not known what happened to the criminal case on the theft of a billion dollars, but RusHydro started to restore the ruined facility with enthusiasm. Expert commissions were created, foreign experts were invited, layers of clay were dug under and concrete poured, but, as is often the case, nothing good came of it. On December 15, 2017, RusHydro announced that it was canning the construction of the Second Stage until better times. Pessimists say it’s for good. So the First stage of the Zagorskaya HPP remained not only the first, but also the only one.

Ecology

Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant is not such a large facility to cause any significant damage to the ecology of the region. Both basins of the hydroelectric power plant are considered to be purely technical facilities, but the lower one is quite inhabited by fish and fishermen.

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Moreover, although the discharge of wastewater from the power plant pollutes the Kunya River, it simultaneously activates its self-purification processes that improve water quality. Another paradox is that although the activities of the pumped-storage plant prevent the fish from spawning freely, there are more fish, because in the lower reservoir they feel more comfortable and nourished.

There were also no changes in weather conditions due to the activities of the pumped-storage plant.

How to get there and why go there

It is not difficult to get to Zagorskaya HPP, you just have to drive along the Yaroslavl highway to Sergiev Posad – it is 54 km from the Moscow Ring Road. Having reached Sergiev Posad, it is necessary to turn towards Kalyazino, and from there in 20 km to turn to Bogorodskoe, and then, depending on your preferences, either to the village, or from the gas station to the left up to the reservoir.

Fishing

It is possible to fish only in the lower basin of the pumping station. The upper one is considered a closed site and is constantly guarded. Fishermen are not allowed there. The locals say that there is a secret path that allows to get to the upper pool, but they do not specify where it is. The upper pool is rumored to have a huge number of fish.

Note: if you want to go fishing in the reservoir, you must understand the following:

  1. Discharge of water from the upper pool to the lower pool is from 8 am to 6 pm.
  2. Raising of water from the lower pool to the upper pool begins at 8 p.m. and continues until 6 a.m.
  3. Water level in the lower reservoir varies up to 25 meters down or up, and up to 80 meters near the shore.
  4. In winter, the reservoir freezes and the ice jumps up and down as the water drops or rises.
  5. Static fishing is not possible. You have to constantly either move away during the rise or run with a rod for the receding water.

Fish are also caught depending on the operation of the pumping station. Sometimes one can catch perch or pike, sometimes only roach and bream are caught. Caught also burbot and gudgeon. There are also crayfish.

Tip: It is best to fish during the breaks of the pumping station, i.e. from 18 to 20.00 and from 6.00 to 8.00.

In 2012 in the village of Bogorodskoye, a recreation area was built on the bank of the reservoir. At first, the fishermen complained about the fish depletion, but later the fish population recovered.

Bogorodsky village

In the village itself is also not a sin to look at. You can admire the wooden church and visit the museum of Bogorodsk carving and wooden toys – the old craft of the village. To tell the truth, you will not be able to buy local items in Bogorodskoye. They are taken to the most visited tourist attraction – the Trinity-Sergius Monastery, where traders place their stalls close to the arrival point of tour buses.

There are no special attractions neither in Bogorodskoe, nor at the Zagorskaya hydroelectric power plant itself. But there is a beautiful Central Russian nature, good fishing, hospitable people and just new places. And what else do you need for a good and inexpensive vacation?

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