Example Of The Grande Dixence Dam Essay
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: Energy, Internet, Success, Construction, Engineering, Project, Capacity, Reservoir
This hugely impressive dam is – at 285 meters – the highest gravity dam in the world. It is indeed a considerable engineering achievement and has been described as “the jewel in the crown of the Grande Dixence complex.” That complex harnesses the hydroelectric power available from a glacial basin covering an area of no less than 350 square kilometres, capturing the runoff from a total of 35 alpine glaciers located in Valais in the south-western part of Switzerland. Its reservoir capacity of 400Mm3 (cubic megameters) represents one fifth of the stored energy in Switzerland, and the stored water held behind the dam is used to power a series of four hydroelectric plants originally having a combined generating capacity of 800 MW. The reason for having multiple hydroelectric plants is that some of the source glaciers are situated at a lower level than the principal water conduit, which is at an altitude of 2400 meters above sea level (“Grande Dixence – an engineering achievement” 2010).
Going back in time, there was an earlier Dixence Dam erected in the Dix valley and commissioned in 1935, but this became submerged in the new reservoir when the much higher Grande Dixence dam complex was constructed. This massive project employed more than 3,000 construction workers over a period from 1951 to 1961, and was completed three years sooner than originally projected. According to the referenced article, this speedy completion was in no small part due to the ready availability of local raw materials, facilitating round-the-clock uninterrupted construction. The rock from local quarries was crushed on site and transported by conveyors to the concrete manufacturing facility. From there the concrete was transported in canisters to site at an hourly rate of 200 tonnes (“Grande Dixence – an engineering achievement” 2010).
The importance of the Grand Dixence dam to Switzerland’s energy needs is indicated by the fact that since it began generating electricity in 1965, it has – after a series of upgrades and expansions – reached a generating capacity of 2,000 Megawatts. That clean energy, available 24/7, is a key factor in making Switzerland’s energy needs secure and allowing it to cope with increasing energy demands (Varone 2011).
Looking back at the history and evolution of the Grande Dixence dam, one has to go back as far as 1922 when the EOS Company began operating in the Swiss canton of Valais, and by 1929 had – with a labor force of 1,200 – commenced the construction of the first Dixence dam, which was completed six years later in 1935. By 1946 the region had 16 hydroelectric schemes and in 1947 EOS began construction of a dam at Cleuson. Meanwhile, what was to become a huge hydroelectric project was in the planning stage. The proposed “super” dam would include a complex of tunnels totalling 100 kilometers in length, and the enlarging of the original Dixence reservoir. To finalize the entire design, and to implement and operate this massive undertaking which would be centered round the world’s tallest gravity dam, Grand Dixence SA was founded in 1950. Construction with a 3,000-strong workforce completed the building of the dam ahead of schedule. The new reservoir behind this dam caused the original Dixence dam to be entirely submerged. Although the new dam served its purpose admirably, the emphasis from the 1980s shifted from the quantity of energy generated to focus more on “capacity, quality and safety.” Hence Grande Dixence SA and EOS collaborated on a project to improve the quality aspects, completing the work in 1998. Then, following an accident in December 2000 which cost the lives of three people, a five-year reconstruction and repair project began in 2005 to bypass the failed penstock section that caused the accident (“From EOS to Grande Dixence and Cleuson-Dixence” n.d.).
“From EOS to Grande Dixence and Cleuson-Dixence.” (n.d.). Grande Dixence SA. Web. Accessed 2 March 2015. URL: <http://www.grande-dixence.ch/energie/hydraulic/switzerland/from-grande-dixence-cleuson-dixence.html>.
“Grande Dixence – an engineering achievement.” (Aug. 2010). Water Power Magazine. Web. Accessed 2 March 2015. URL: <http://www.waterpowermagazine.com/projectprofiles/projectprofilesgrande-dixence-an-engineering-achievement/>.
Varone, Christel. (Sept. 2011). “50 years of Grande Dixence Dam.” Alpiq. Web. Accessed 2 March 2015. URL: <http://www.alpiq.com/news-stories/media-releases/media_releases.jsp?news=tcm:95-90721>.