EDF plans to launch a bidding process by December for the selection of the turbines and generators supplier, with the contract expected to be awarded by September 2010. The plant, designed by EDF, will be equipped with two 47-MW Francis vertical hydraulic turbines, which will be located in an underground powerhouse.
Selection of the main equipment supplier is needed before advancing with the design of the plant.
The project, which has an estimated total investment value of $320 million, will also entail the building of two bridges, access roads, and a 10-kilometer penstock. Preliminary work and site preparation will start in the first quarter of next year, and major civil engineering and construction of the cave area are expected to commence later in 2010. Assembly of mechanical equipment is scheduled to begin by the end of 2012, with commissioning of the new facility tentatively scheduled for 2016.
At present, EDF operates six small hydropower plants on La Romanche River with a total installed capacity of 82 MW. The company's plans also include the demolition of these old facilities in the future. La Romanche is a 78-kilometer river in the Rhone-Alpes region. In 2009, the Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, another main player in hydropower production France, also requested permits for two 6-MW projects on the river.
After nuclear power, hydropower is the second-largest source of power in France, accounting for about 12% of France's power. Within France, 95% of the hydroelectric potential of the country has already exploited, and about 220 of the dams in the country are operated by EDF.