Innovative solutions for the protection of migratory fish in the Meuse river
Luminus takes stock of the Life4Fish programme
Brussels, 06/09/2023 - The Life4Fish project, launched by Luminus and its partners in 2017 and supported by the European Commission, has come to an end today. The time has come to take stock of the initiatives undertaken and to look toward the future.
Luminus is the number one in the field of hydropower in Belgium. Its 7 power stations (6 on the Meuse river and 1 on the Sambre river) represent an installed capacity of 67 MW and generate 227 GWh each year, enough to supply 55,000 households with green energy.
On Wednesday, 6 September, Luminus and its partners (UNamur, ULiège, Profish technologies, EDF R&D) concluded the Life4Fish programme with an exchange of experiences in the presence of international experts. This study day was dedicated to the solutions that have been implemented to preserve and foster biodiversity within the context of electricity production in hydropower stations.
Seven years’ cooperation
In June 2017, Luminus and its partners decided, with the support of the European Commission, to test and validate several methods for the protection of two important migratory fish species of the Meuse river: the European eel and the Atlantic salmon. This was the start of the Life4Fish programme, the purpose of which is to protect these two species through a sustainable operation of hydroelectric power stations.
Through the Life4Fish programme, the partners aim to actively contribute to the preservation of biodiversity within the context of the production of renewable energy. This was a major challenge, linked to the local presence of Luminus as an industrial user of the Meuse river.
Using the biologists' precise behavioural datasets, hydraulic engineers developed and validated various solutions to propose alternative migration routes for fish. A bypass (or downstream outfall) set up for salmon smolts at the Grands-Malades site proved to attract more than 50% of the smolts, allowing them to pass safely downstream.
An even higher level of efficiency was achieved when a dam gate was opened when salmon migration into the Ourthe and Meuse rivers was reported by the model. This solution, which was implemented at Monsin and Lixhe, significantly increased the success of the migration of salmon smolts. Similarly, 24-hour turbine shutdowns are planned when the migration of silver-stage European eel is predicted by the model. The accuracy of the model means that production losses can be optimized at times when eel migrations are most significant. At two sites (Namur and Ampsin-Neuville), the shutdown of the turbines is combined with an electric barrier, which further increases the protection level.
“These measures put us on track to achieve our objectives. Although our objectives for the two species have been achieved in terms of resources used and results obtained, further protective measures will need to be taken in order to pursue the efforts initiated by the project”, says Pierre Theunissen, Senior Project Manager at Luminus. “Our results have shown that other effects, associated with the physical state of the Meuse river, will constitute the next challenge. In this respect an improvement of the reaches may have a very positive impact. The expertise developed within the context of Life4Fish can now at the very least be put to use in the Meuse basin as well as in other European regions.”
A multidisciplinary team
Before the Life4Fish programme, Luminus had performed an ambitious field study in order to establish a benchmark for the survival of smolts and silver-stage European eels during their migration towards the sea along 6 hydropower stations on the Meuse river. The Life4Fish project was launched on the basis of these results and aimed at increasing the overall chances of survival of the fish during migration. This integrated approach required a multidisciplinary and international team dedicated to the project.
“In-depth knowledge of the migration of salmon and eel enabled us to develop migration models, which are now used in our control centre and warn our production teams when the turbines need to enter ‘migration mode’ “, Pierre Theunissen explains.
Grégoire Dallemagne, CEO of Luminus, concludes: “We are happy to have made a positive contribution, together with our partners UNamur, ULiège, Profish technologies and EDF, to the Life4fish project, which enjoyed the support of the European Commission and implemented solutions fostering biodiversity while reducing the green electricity production losses of our hydropower stations to a minimum.”
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