90th Anniversary of Kondopozhskaya HPP

Kondopozhskaya HPP of the Suna HPPs Cascade celebrates its 90th Anniversaty on 29 January 2019

90th Anniversary of Kondopozhskaya HPP

One of the oldest hydroelectric power plants in Russia, Kondopozhskaya HPP of the Suna HPPs Cascade celebrates its 90th Anniversaty on 29 January 2019. For this event we have prepared sufficient information material about the history of the plant, veterans' testimonies and stories of present day HPP workers.

Construction of the Kondopozhskaya HPP was included in the plan of electrification of the whole country GOELRO by Lenin's personal order: the Soviet Union needed paper. However, the history of the plant began earlier, even before the revolution.

Copy of V. Lenin's resolution: "Generally, I fully support both projects. V. Ulyanov (Lenin)"

Tokarsky's Idea

The cover of M. Tokarsky's book

Engineer-technologist Mikhail Tokarsky was the first to see the future industrial center of Karelia in the small village of Kondopoga. He not only invented, drafted and economically justified the project of development of this area, but also implemented the plan.

As early as at the end of the 19th century, he noticed the good location of rivers and lakes near the village of Kondopoga, and published a book in 1899: “Water power near the village of Kondopoga, Olonets Governorate, Petrozavodsky Uyezd”, where he provides technical data, size and economic conditions for industrial use.

In his book, M. Tokarsky wrote:

“At present, there is no flow of direct visible force near the village of Kondopoga... The force in question may be reached through two hydraulic operations.

  1. Digging of the channel between Lake Nigozero, distanced from Kondopoga for about 3 versts and Lake Onega and
  2. Dam construction on the Sandalka River near the village of Sopokha, located north of Kondopoga, about 30 versts."

Even in the technical documentation there is a manifestation of care for people around: “... in these calculations we shall not lose sight of the following: when leasing water for use, peasants traded for themselves lease holder's obligations to leave a water channel in the dam on the Sandalka River enough to operate a mill with two stones and two stamps."

Further, the water force of the future power plant is estimated, taking into account this circumstance. Thus, "if you take the 80% efficiency of turbines, the number of effective forces of Kondopozhsky engines will be 5,000 horsepower."

The Hydraulic Works section describes the possible costs necessary for the construction of a channel between Lake Nigozero and Lake Onega, a dam, turbines and other equipment necessary for the construction of the power plant in detail.

S. Prokudin-Gorsky. M. Tokarsky's quay. General view. 1916

Among the economic conditions necessary for the arrangement of production, M. Tokarsky highlighted a very convenient location of the selected place.

"The place intended for the Kondopozhsky enterprise is located at the northern end of the Kondopozhsky Bay of Lake Onega and is a quiet, vast harbour, protected from the south from the open Lake Onega by a range of small islands. This circumstance is especially important, as it allows to put factory vessels on wintering there."

In 1903, the company received a licence for the use of water power in Kondopoga, and Tokarsky, as its authorized representative, was entitled to a 90-year lease of peasant land in Kondopozhskaya Volost, providing the construction of the Sopokha dam and the Kondopoga channel within 5 years (later extended to 15 years). Tokarsky starts the construction of the dam in Sopokha and a quay in the Kondopoga Bay of Lake Onega.

The coming World War I interfered with the implementation of this project.

During the First World War, the purpose of the plant was in providing electricity to the nitric acid plant for gunpowder production. The construction of the largest HPP in Russia by Henrikh Graftio's project began in 1916. However, history itself once again made adjustments: Civil war and foreign military intervention interrupted the barely started construction.

The firstborn of hydropower sector in Karelia

On April 26, 1921, the Sovnarkom of the RSFSR made the resolution to place a central power plant and a paper factory in Kondopoga on the Suna River.

In 1923, the construction resumed and thus marked the beginning of the development and use of water resources of the northern European part of the country. Thus, the paper outdid gunpowder.

Publication of the Karelo-Murmansky Krai newspaper
Publication of the Karelo-Murmansky Krai newspaper

The head structure with a railway bridge, the supply channel and the head pond were built on a capacity of 100 cubic meters of water per second.

The construction was performed in difficult conditions, mainly by hand. A wheelbarrow and a shovel were the main tools of hydrobuilders, and difficult natural conditions were their main opponent.

Water tunnels construction
Derivation channel construction 1924–1926
Water tunnels of the HPP under construction
Installation of reinforcement under the base of the unit 1926
The construction of the first stage of the Kondopozhskaya HPP was completed in 1929
Rotor of the Kondopozhskaya HPP under construction
Generators of the first HPP stage
The first HPP stage. View from the lower pool, 1930
The first HPP stage – view from the higher pool, 1931

After the launch of the first stage of the Kondopozhskaya HPP the question of its expansion at the expense of the flow of the Suna River, as the small capacity plant could not meet the needs of the rapid industrial growth. It was decided to speed up the construction of the second stage of the Kondopozhskaya HPP.

In 1928–1932, topographic and geological surveys were carried out and a project was drafted to connect the Suna River with Palye Lake to power the Kondopozhskaya HPP through Sandal Lake. Earth dikes, a dam and a channel connecting the Suna River with Palyeozero were constructed.

Kondostroy. 1931. Oil on canvas. 69х94 cm. Artist M. Tsybasov

The construction of the second stage began in 1933. A specialised organisation Sunagesstroy was created for the performance of the works. In 1936—1941 the building of the second stage of the Kondopozhskaya HPP was built, by spring 1941 hydroelectric generating units were installed. As a result, the capacity of the plant increased to 27.5 MW.

Sketch to the painting Kondostroy. 1929–1930. Watercolour on paper. 34х50 cm. M. Tsybasov
Construction of the cellulose plant. Kondopoga 1933–1934. Artist H. Vogeler

In February 1941, the electric power of the Kondopozhskaya HPP was first supplied to Petrozavodsk. The plant provided electricity to the city and to the cellulose and paper plant until the war and occupation.

Extraordinary Person

History of Kondopoga and its HPP is closely related to the name of Aleksandr Nazarov. He built HPPs within the framework of the GOELRO plan, starting with the firstborn of the Soviet hydro-building — the Volkhovskaya HPP. He took part in the construction of the Dneprovskaya HPP. After the Great Patriotic War he took part in the consrtuction of Palyeozerskaya, Ust-Kamenogorskaya and Bratskaya HPPs. In total, he gave 35 years of his life to the electrification plan.

Aleksandr Nazarov

"In order to direct the flow of the Suna River to another channel, it was necessary to build a number of complex hydraulic structures: earth dikes, crib dam, reinforced concrete dam outlet, log-way. It was necessary to deepen and widen the Nigozersky channel, bringing the water of Sandala to the turbines of the Kondopozhskaya HPP, to build a road through swamps and rocks.

Ration stamp system was in effect back then. There was a lack of food. Bread was baked in Russian wood-fired ovens. The lacking food had to be obtained with their own hands... the teams of fishermen and hunters were completed. We sent them for fishing provided that workload for those gone was fulfilled by the workers in the working areas for which they were assigned. Fish, game – all this was useful for communal feeding of workers living in tents and dugouts. In the future, the Karelia government helped us with the acquisition of sweep net and other fishing gear...

The work of the builder remained primitive, deprived of normal mechanisation. For the entire construction site there was one leveling device (commentary — geodetic tool for determining the difference of heights between several points of the earth's surface) and theodolite (commentary — measuring device for determining the horizontals and verticals in construction). And therefore marks often had to be made approximately. Everywhere there were wheelbarrows, stretchers and dray carts (commentary — wheelbarrows for soil transportation) and horse wagons."

Architecture

Kondopozhskaya HPP attracts gazes due to the unique architecture of the building, made of natural Karelian stone having preserved its original appearance. It is now historical heritage of the country. The coat of arms on the tower under the window opening pleases the eye today.

After the war, a bathhouse on the shore and a small power plant on a wastewater outlet remained.

Facade of the Kondopozhskaya HPP
Coat of arms of the USSR on the facade
General view of the HPP building from the lower pool
The HPP water tunnels

War

With the war outbreak, the equipment was evacuated, with the exception of the fourth small unit with a capacity of 1.5 MW. It was blown up on the spot.

Part of the HPP equipment was evacuated by the Oktyabrskaya Railway through Belomorsk to the North, and later it appeared at the Chirchik HPPs Cascade in Uzbekistan.

Water tunnel destroyed during the war
Post-war destructions in the machine room
HPP damage during the war
Archival photo of the power equipment of the HPP in wartime
Roof damage
General view of the plant during the war

After the war, a group of specialists from Leningrad came to repair the Kondopozhskaya HPP. A new hydraulic survey of the Suna River was performed.

In autumn 1944 generators and hydraulic turbines were brought from Sweden and Finland, and switches and reactors were imported from Germany. In February 1947, two generators were put in operation, and the full repair of the plant was completed a year later with the launch of the third and last 4.2 MW generator.

Simultaneously after the war, construction of other hydroelectric power plants of the Suna HPPs Cascade began. The destroyed Girvasskaya dam was almost rebuilt, based on a new project in 1947. Thus, the first reinforced concrete dam in Karelia was built, reaching about 100 meters in length.

In 1954 the Palyeozerskaya plant started its power production. With the emergence in February 1959 of the 110 kW transmission line Verkhne-Svirskaya HPP—Petrozavodsk, which connected Lenenergo and Karelenergo, the Kondopozhskaya plant, as well as the entire Suna HPPs Cascade, entered the unified power supply system of the country.

Kondopozhsky hydraulic power system

Structure: derivation channel, the HPP building, water discharge, mud discharge, earth dikes, head channels, outlet channel 126 m long, outdoor switchgear of 110 kV. The length of the water-storage basin is 41.7 km, width — up to 6.8, depth — up to 58 m. The HPP's installed capacity is 25.6 MW.

Still a pioneer

Even 90 years later, the Kondopozhskaya HPP works smoothly, meeting the requirements of the time. Its modern automation equipment has high technical performance, a high energy efficiency, environmental friendliness, safety, and the opportunity to monitor the condition of the equipment. The stable work is ensured by overhauls and renovations of the main and auxiliary equipment.

Turbine unit
Evgeny Lopatin, Director of the Suna HPPs Cascade

“The Kondopozhskaya HPP is a unique plant in many ways, it has become an innovator at least four times. First of all, it was among pioneers when implemented the distributor control system — an electric drive instead of a hydro-mechanical one with oil pressure unit. The use of electric cylinders eliminates the danger of pressure, the harm of oil, reduces maintenance work, reduces the costs of electricity.

Secondly, for the first time in the hydropower industry of Russia, we changed bearings from babbit to modern fluoroplastic ones on the third horizontal unit. Before that they were not used on hydroelectric generating units. This ensures a more reliable operation of this generator.

Thirdly, in 2008 the project of replacement of speed regulators with modern ones for generator rotation rate control was implemented. We became the second in Russia to introduce such regulators on hydroelectric generating units after the HPPs cascade in Yakutia. This is especially important because Kondopoga is partially powered from the plant, and annual power outages occurred in the city earlier. This issue was solved for good after the implementation of this new solution.

Fourthly, after the breakdown at the Sayano-Shushenskaya HPP, Kondopozhskaya HPP became a Russian pioneer implementing protection against rupture of metal water tunnels to units No. 1 and No. 2."

Family atmosphere

Employees of the Kondopozhskaya HPP admit that the plant has its own special atmosphere. It is cozy and homelike, and the team resembles a big close knit family. There are twenty of them, plus administrative staff of the Suna HPPs Cascade, mechanical transport unit, who work at the plant, i.e. 40 people in total. Different generations work side by side, experienced engineers share their knowledge with young people. All of them are united by their high professional integrity, which the plant has rightly been proud of throughout its almost century history.

Sergey Povetkin, Head of the Kondopozhskaya HPP

“First of all, I have always been drawn to work with equipment, new technical solutions, our plant is full of opportunities in this regard. Secondly, working at such a facility, you realise the responsibility to the city of Kondopoga and the power system, and it keeps you alert. Thirdly, the team is wonderful, all specialists are competent, responsible, someone you can rely on. It has always been so. Just remember the people who repaired the plant after the war. Its operation became possible thanks to their diligence and huge love for the vocation. To repair such a facility in such a short period of time and with the lack of resources is a task only passionate people can do. By the way, the HPP equipment works without any significant issues, which was made possible not only due to the reliability margin laid by designers and manufacturers, but also competent and careful operation. And this is the merit of all the people who worked at the Kondopozhskaya HPP earlier and do it now.”

Monument

Karelian energy industry workers have a lot of respect for the history of the plant and are highly invested in it. That is why on the day of the 90th anniversary of the plant they celebrate it with the installation of a honorary monument — a historical trolley, which was used in the 20s of the twentieth century during the construction of the Kondopozhskaya HPP's hydraulic structures.

Honorary monument to the 90th anniversary of the Kondopozhskaya HPP in honour of its builders

The trolley was discovered under a layer of soil on the slope near the HPP. The Suna HPPs Cascade's employees repaired the trolley and installed it for the plant's anniversary.

It tells the story of the heroism of all the people who stood at the stem of the Karelian energy industry, who built channels, bridges and dams. Of those who lit the lights of the power plant so that it served the people for years to come.

Film dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Kondopozhskaya HPP