Karahnjukar Hydroelectric Project

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Smart Design Saved Millions of Dollars MWH, in a joint venture with several other firms, provided design, engineering and construction management support for the $2 billion Karahnjukar Hydroelectric Project, the largest project ever developed in the country at the time of construction.

    Location: National Power Company, Iceland
    Region: Europe-Africa
    Market Sector: Energy & Power
    Status: Complete

    The 690 MW project provides an economical source of electric power for an aluminum smelter. The project includes:

    • A 198-meter-high dam, one of the highest concrete-faced rock-fill dams in the world and the highest in Europe
    • A unique spillway with a 90-meter-long drop to a plunge pool in the canyon
    • 73 kilometers of hard-rock tunnels
    • A 690 MW underground power station housing six 115 MW turbines at the world’s highest-head (600 meters) with a discharge of 144 m3/s and an annual generation of 4,600 GWh
    • 50 kilometers of high-voltage transmission line to the smelter (rated 420 kV but operated at 220 kV).

    The joint venture completed the investigations and design, bid design and preparation of bid documents for competitive bidding for the project. The MWH team’s principal role was the design of the dam and related components such as the diversion tunnels, bottom outlet, and the toe wall or canyon plinth supporting the concrete face of the dam. MWH staff also assisted with design of the headrace tunnels and provided technical support during construction and assistance with claims management. The project team successfully worked at the remote site under difficult and harsh cold weather conditions.

    • Detailed dam design
    • Preparation of tender documents
    • Construction management support
    • Resident engineer services
    • Assistance in claims management
    • While providing design services, MWH made design changes in the field to considerable help mitigate or eliminate construction delays. As a result of collaboration with the Dam contractor Impregilo, millions of dollars were saved and the dam completion dates were accelerated by six months.
    • A cooperative brainstorming environment led to several innovative approaches discussed and implemented to positively impact tunnel completion and help keep the overall project on schedule.
    • MWH successfully worked at the remote site under difficult and harsh cold weather conditions.


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