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Energie Electrique du Simplon (EES) has invested over CHF 37 million in completely overhauling the hydroelectric facilities at the Gabi power station, which is located on the southern mountain slopes of Simplon, in the canton of Valais. The generating units produced their first kilowatt hours in May of this year. Local parish priest Rolf Kalbermatter had the honour of opening the new power station today in the presence of State Councillor Roberto Schmidt and National Councillor Philipp-Matthias Bregy, along with Sebastian Arnold (Chairman of Simplon Municipality), Amédée Murisier (Chair of the EES Board of Directors), Antje Kanngiesser (CEO of Alpiq) and around a hundred guests. "This official opening marks the end of a series of three power station refurbishments – demanding projects for which we have been able to count on the excellent support of companies in the local region," commented Amédée Murisier.
The Gabi power station, which first entered into service in 1957, represents the first production stage in the EES hydroelectric system. It processes the water stored in the Eggen basin. The EES development also includes the Gondo and Tannuwald power stations and the Fah and Sera dams.
After more than 60 years in service, Gabi's machines needed replacing, so work began on completely overhauling the power station in March 2022. In just one year, the old facilities were dismantled, a new building was constructed and the hydroelectric and mechanical equipment was completely replaced. The plant now has two generating units, each with a capacity of 9.5 MW. The facility has been optimised and its annual production capacity increased by 15% to reach 44 million kWh, which equates to the average annual electricity consumption of some 9,500 households.
Since 2017, EES's shareholders – Alpiq (81.97%), EnAlpin (10.79%), EWBN (3.06%), FMV (2.68%) and private shareholders (1.50%) – have invested almost CHF 70 million in refurbishing the Gondo, Tannuwald and Gabi power stations and ensuring that they can operate efficiently and effectively over the long term. This scheme to optimise hydroelectric production is in line with the Swiss Confederation's Energy Strategy 2050. The overall capacity of the development has been expanded by almost 30% since 2017 to reach 80 MW, and its average annual production now stands at 258 million kWh. "The Simplon region is once again demonstrating its commitment to producing the energy needed to ensure the security of our supply, for the benefit of Switzerland as a whole," says Antje Kanngiesser.
As with previous refurbishment projects, EES worked closely with the authorities and environmental associations from the outset. The renovation of the Gabi power station was carried out with due regard for environmental and landscape protection and meets the requirements for water protection and purification. In fact, EES was one of the first electricity generating companies in the canton of Valais to implement a residual water treatment system back in 2016.
In addition, a wetland area has been created near the Eggen basin to offset the environmental impact of the project. This will provide a habitat for amphibians and for plants and animals typically found in these environments.