Wasserkraftwerk Hagneck. Foto/Photo: TES.

Hydroelectric power plant Hagneck

Hagneck (Canton of Bern) is one of the oldest hydropower plants in Switzerland and the world. It is a monument of technology and architectural cultural-historical significance. Generating electricity from water is a visionary masterpiece of the late 19th century.

On 30 May 1891, the government of the canton of Berne granted the concession to the municipalities of Biel, Erlach, Hagneck, Neuenstadt, Nidau and Täuffelen-Gerolfingen. In 1897, the first construction work began. By the summer of 1899, the power station was already in operation.

Today, hydropower is the world’s most important renewable energy source for generating electricity. A characteristic of this power station (Laufwasserkraftwerk) is that they process large quantities of water with a small height difference to generate electricity. The approximately 420 large hydroelectric power plants in Switzerland produce about half of Switzerland’s hydroelectric energy.

These power plants (e.g. Hagneck, Birsfelden or Augst) use the fall of a river or canal to generate electricity. A characteristic of these power plants is that they process large amounts of water with a small height difference to generate electricity.

As long as the river flows, electricity is generated. It is not possible to store consumption peaks, in contrast to Speicherkraftwerken.

In winter, water is scarcer; in spring, the river (e.g. the Rhine) or the canal (Aare-Hagneck) supplies much water.

In a Speicherkraftwerk (e.g. the Lac des Dix reservoir with one of the largest dams in the world, the Grande Dixence, in Valais, or the Curnera reservoir (Lai da Curnera) in the Vorderrhein area), the water is stored in a mountain lake by means of a dam.

This is connected to the power plant in the valley via basins. The water is converted into electricity by turbines. These 83 large Swiss power plants produce less than half of Switzerland’s hydropower. (Source: www.energie-lexikon.info).

The Hagneck hydropower plant is built to withstand earthquakes and high water. The weir is designed for 2,700 m3 per second. In 2005, the discharge of the Aare rose to 1,514 m3 per second. The weir can withstand such volumes of water. Moreover, a flood like the one in the summer of 2005 occurs only once every 300 years.

(Source and further information: Hagneck Visitor Centre, www.bielerseekraftwerke.ch).