The pumped storage plant at Goldisthal in Germany has been buffeted by political change, economic argument, and environmental objections for more than 20 years. The last objections were finally cleared in late 1997, thanks to an agreement between the Thuringian state government and the Berlin-based plant owner VEAG. The owner will invest more than DM1.4B in the project, which will eventually allow the company to bring up to 1060MW of extra capacity on line within minutes. This is not the largest investment VEAG is making in its power generating facilities; in fact it is just 5% of VEAG’s expenditure over the construction period. It is, however, VEAG’s largest hydroelectric project. The bulk of VEAG’s power comes from coal-fired generation. Here as elsewhere in eastern Germany brown coal is prevalent. This is less energy-efficient than black coal, and its high sulphur content requires the additional cost of flue gas desulphurisation. Nevertheless, in the region there are good political and economic reasons for choosing coal-fired plant.

Objections to the project were to be expected in the early 1990s, as it had first been mooted under the aegis of the German Democratic Republic. These had been surmounted by the time detailed design work was completed in 1993, and it had received approval from the government in 1994. The final delay was not anticipated; given the predilection of utilities in eastern Germany for plant fired by brown coal, it might be thought that for this project, at least, environmental objections would be muted. In fact, legal challenges and obstructions from environmental activists held up the project for more than three years.

Construction comes at a time when VEAG’s monopoly position is being threatened by new initiatives to open Germany’s power industry to competition. But while the threat has not been completely removed it has been lessened, and market stability, assured by an agreement that the 12 power utilities in eastern Germany will buy 70% of their power from VEAG.

Now work has started at the site, and the contractor companies are preparing to meet a tight schedule to bring the plant on line in phases between 2002 and 2003. The contractors are:

•Main contractor: lahmeyer International.

•Groundworks: Walter Bau, Heilet & Woerner, Züblin, STUAG.

•Cavern and tunnels: Walter Bau, Heilit & Woerner, Züblin.

•Upper reservoir: Walter Bau, Heilet & Woerner, Züblin.

•Lower reservoir: STRABAG, Bilfinger & Berger, Kirchner, Hinteregger & Söhne, Moll, Bickhardt Bau.

•Steel tunnel linings: Voest Alpine.

•Spherical valves: Noell Stahl und Maschinenbau.

•Pump turbine: consortium of Voith Hydro, Sulzer Hydro and CKD Blansko.

•Turbine inlet and outlet fittings: Voest Alpine.

•Generator: AEG Energietechnik, ELIN Energieversorgung, VEM Elektroantriebe.

•Drainage: Hans Künz.

•Electrical earthing: Starkstroman-lagenbau Lobenstein.