The use of hydropower has a long tradition in the Sauerland hills, a rainy low mountain range. Centuries ago, people already built countless barrages on the River Ruhr, the Lenne and its side arms. Hundreds of waterwheels generated the mechanical energy required for operating mills and hammer mills. In many cases, these water power plants were the starting point of enterprises that still exist today. In the late 19th century, the first modern hydropower plants were built, generating electric power via turbines connected to generators.
As early as 1905, the then Ruhrtalsperrenverein (Ruhr Reservoir Association) began to consider the use of hydropower, putting its first own hydropower plant at the newly built Lister Dam and Reservoir into operation in May 1913. However, as the capacity of this plant soon turned out to be insufficient, two more hydropower plants in Bamenohl and Lenhausen were constructed in the early 1920s. The hydropower plants at the Lister and Lenne rivers became the namesake of today’s company Lister- und Lennekraftwerke GmbH (LLK) in Olpe, a 100 per cent subsidiary of the Ruhrverband.
Today, LLK operates 14 hydropower stations with an installed capacity of about 40 megawatts. The average annual power generation amounts to 70 million kW/h, sufficient for supplying power to approx. 20,000 households. As a result, the emission of more than 40,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide annually can be prevented. In the western part of the Olpe District, LLK serves as a local power supplier, delivering more than 350 million kW/h of electrical energy per year.
There is a large variety of different installations, from the relatively big hydropower plant at the Bigge Dam and Reservoir, which has existed for more than 40 years and produces 22 million kW/h annually, with its four turbines and a capacity of 15.6 megawatts, providing environmentally-friendly electricity to more than 6,000 households, to the small hydropower station at the Fürwigge Dam and Reservoir, which uses the dam’s water head to generate electricity for about 30 households.
All Ruhrverband Reservoirs use energy from impounded water for hydropower generation, provided this does not affect supraregional energy supplies. The power plant at the Möhne Dam and Reservoir was put into operation in 1913, just as the power plant at the Lister Reservoir. It has four turbines and an installed turbine capacity of eight megawatts per year, producing approx. 15 million kW/h of environmentally-friendly energy annually - sufficient for more than 4,000 households!
The hydropower plant at the Sorpe Dam and Reservoir was built in 1935 as a pumped-storage hydrostation with a capacity of 7.4 megawatts. It is used to generate power for peak demand periods - in case of lower demand (such as at night), water not needed for water management purposes can be pumped back into the main reservoir from the balancing reservoir located downstream.
The impounded lakes of the Ruhrverband are also used to generate energy. LLK currently builds a new hydropower station at Lake Kemnad with an installed capacity of 800 kilowatts. A fish ladder system will make sure that the power station’s impact on the fish fauna is kept to a minimum.