85th Anniversary of Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP

On 19 December 2018, on the eve of the Power Engineer Day, Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP celebrates its 85th anniversary

The most respected engineers from all over the world doubted the possibility of creating such a powerful hydraulic structure on soft soils. Despite their disbelief, Soviet scientists led by the genius Genrikh Graftio did what seemed to be impossible.


The plant's history started as early as 1916. This is the year two power plants and a dam were designed based on the work of engineer Nikolsky. However, the political situation in the country and the First World War interfered with the project, and the construction was postponed. Eleven years later, the plan for electrification of the whole country was being implemented in full: On 19 October 1927 Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP was founded, in 1933 the first hydroelectric generating unit of the plant was put into operation, the second and the third units being added a year later, with the fourth one starting its work in 1935. Hence, the plant with the capacity of 96 MW was fully put into industrial operation in 1936.

The construction was led personally by the famous power engineer Henrikh Graftio, it was his second greatest creation in hydropower sector after the grandiose Volkhovskaya HPP, the firstborn of GOELRO. The fact that 85 years later his creation still remains in excellent condition speaks for the quality of his work.

"Everything was built for centuries to stand back then. Everything is still in excellent condition, the dam is not washed out, there are near to no cracks in the concrete. There are issues from time to time, but we solve them quickly,"
Stepan Kiselyov, the master of the hydraulic section, assured.

This is the world's first large HPP built on such unstable soils — soft Devonian clays. Its dam was constructed with a slight inclination against the current to further straighten the structure under the water pressure. In the future, the example of the plant was used in the construction of other hydraulic structures throughout the country.

Other innovation: During the construction of Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP the river was blocked by filling the flowing water with stones for the first time in history of the hydropower industry. By the way, these technical solutions were doubted a lot by the world specialists. However, the plant proved by its successful operation that the truly best engineering minds worked in the Soviet Union.


Unfortunately, the Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP did not avoid the destructive Great Patriotic War, during which it suffered great damage. In September 1941, the plant was occupied by the enemy, and equipment, which wasn't dismantled before the occupation, was mostly destroyed during the shooting. More than once it was crossed by the front line, and the plant was badly damaged on the line of fire.

"All main hydroelectric generating units of the plant were blown up: the generator rotors were damaged, and oil pressure unit tanks were destroyed and burned. Explosions broke turbine shafts on three of the four machines, turbine covers and frames. Impeller of the unit No.1 was stuck in the spiral chamber, and the impeller of the unit No.2 fell into the suction pipe. All elements were covered with thick rust. The scale of the destruction was such that the units seemed to be beyond repair and were to be manufactured anew. However, replacing the units with new ones would take a long time, and electricity was needed as soon as possible. It was decided to repair hydroelectric generating unit,”
the film How the Dams Fought depicts.

Restoration of Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP began in 1944, when the war was not over yet, and just four years later it started operating at full capacity — 100 MW.

The building of Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP is officially included in the list of cultural heritage of the Russian Federation.

In May 1949, the Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP was named after academician Henrikh Graftio, and a monument to its creator stands next to the main building of the plant.

It should be added that one of the ideologists of the plant repair was Henrikh Graftio himself, who was almost 80 years old by that time. He often visited the plant and saw its resurrection.

Present days

Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP along with Verkhne-Svirskaya and Volkhovskaya HPPs composes the Ladoga HPPs Cascade. However, this plant has several features that particularly increase its significance in the power system of the region. First of all, two transit lines connecting St. Petersburg and the Kola Peninsula pass through it, and in case of demultiplexing of the system, HPP employees can synchronise it on their switches. In addition, the plant performs an unusual function for the HPP: it produces not only electricity, but also heat — thanks to the electric boiler, heating the village of Svirstroy in the cold season.

Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP is far from major cities and is the main production facility in the small village of Svirstroy, which was founded many years ago during the construction of the HPP. There is a popular tourist area near the Svir River, coniferous forest being all around. The sewage system has recently been upgraded at the plant to cause as little harm as possible to the environment. By the way, Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP is officially included in the list of cultural heritage of the Russian Federation. The building is a magnificent example of Soviet constructivism.

It is possible to get to the HPP only from the island formed in the stream bed of Svir by the Volga-Baltic Waterway. To do this, you have to pass through a moveable bridge near the gateway.

“Thanks to the TGC-1 Training Center, continuous training and professional development of personnel is taking place,”
says Aleksey Nikiforov, Head of Nizhne-Svirskaya HPP.

Today, the plant employs 28 people, among whom you can find both experienced employees and young people. All employees, including operational and repair personnel, are competent specialists with higher education certificates.