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Greenland approves two hydroelectric projects

Greenland has approved the development of new hydropower capacity to reduce the country's use of fossil fossils for the production of electricity.

Greenland’s parliament, the Inatsisartut, voted on 9 November in favour of the construction of a sixth plant and expansion of an existing facility that will make it possible for the country to produce 90 per cent of its power from renewable sources and potentially reduce its carbon emissions by a fifth in 2030.

The act sets out the framework for construction, financing and operation of the hydropower plants with associated facilities for the supply of the capital Nuuk as well as the western coastal towns of Qasigiannguit and Aasiaat. According to the act, theG, Naalakkersuisut, may raise loans totalling Danish Kroner (DKK) 3.1 billion (US$  480 million) to finance the projects, which would be on-lent to the state energy utility Nukissiorfiit as the owner-operator of the plants. The two projects are expected to pay for themselves over their lifespans by reducing Greenland’s reliance on imported oil.

The expansion of the 45 MW Buksefjorden hydropower plant by 55 MW includes the construction of a new power station equipped with two 27.5 MW turbines connected to the same transmission line as the existing power station, with associated technical facilities, reserve capacity, infrastructure and other associated equipment, installations and buildings, as well as a tunnel between the current reservoir, the Kangerluarsunnguup Tasia lake and the Isortuarsuup Tasia lake. The expanded plant will help meet the capital’s growing energy needs. Since 2010, increased production from the existing plant to meet growing demand has drained more water from its reservoir than the amount of inflow. As a result, it is expected that from 2024 there will be too little water in the lake to supply the full amount of energy, and that, without the expansion, the city may need to return to oil-fired generators to meet growing power demand. Some 99 per cent of the electricity Nukissiorfiit generates to power Nuuk comes from renewable sources, with the majority coming from the Buksefjord hydroelectric plant. “The reservoir at Buksefjorden can store six times the yearly runoff, but the water level has been declining for the last ten years as production has been higher than the sustainable level. So the most important part of the Buksefjorden expansion is the construction of a 16 km tunnel to a higher glacier lake, that will expand the catchment area and provide much more water,” Asger Dall, Operations consultant for hydropower at Nukissiorfiit, told Hydropower & Dams. In 2020, Buksefjorden produced 255 GWh, but its sustainable generation is only 185 GWh per annum. “With the expansion we should be able to produce up to 620 GWh/ year, but it will be some years before the demand is that high, even taking into account plans to replace all oil-based heating in Nuuk,” he said. “We don’t have an interconnected grid, so the annual production is very dependent on the local demand,” he added. Buksefjorden is connected to Nuuk by a 58 km-long, 132 kV transmission line, which includes a 5.37 km-long connection over the Ameralik fjord, currently the longest span of an overhead line in the world. The plant was commissioned in 1993, and expanded in 2008 with a third turbine. The reservoir is dammed by a 16 m-high, 128 m-wide concrete dam.

In addition, a new 21 MW hydropower plant will be built at the fjord Kangersuneq to supply the towns of Qasigiannguit and Aasiaat in the Qeqertalik municipality on the southern shore of Disko Bay in western Greenland. The project is designed to be equipped with three 7 MW turbines to generate up to 100 GW/year. The storage plant will be built with a tunnel linking the Kangersuneq fjord and the Kuussuup Tasia lake, which will be used as a reservoir for storage. The two towns have a combined population of 4300 and replacing oil-fired generators with a hydropower plant is expected to reduce the amount of oil-generated power Nukissiorfiit produces by 20 per cent.

Nukissiorfiit expects to launch the first tender at the start of 2023 for the design and construction of the projects and supply of electro-mechanical equipment, said Dall. The expansion of Buksefjorden is currently scheduled to start in 2024 and to be completed in 2027, while building of the Aasiaat and Qasigiannguit project is set to start in 2026 for full commissioning in 2028.