193: Taking hydro dams underground


Hydro-electric dams can disrupt the natural ecology of rivers, damage forests and biodiversity, release large amounts of greenhouse gases, as well as displace thousands of people while disrupting food systems, water quality and agriculture.


Put the rivers and dams underground.

The Romanches Gavet dam, in Isère is the largest underground dam in France also the last major EDF hydropower project. After ten years’ work, the installation, with a gallery 10 km long underneath the Belle Donne mountain, was officially inaugurated on 9th October 2020.

With a capacity of 97 megawatts, the 92-ton turbine, Romanche-Gavet hydroelectric plant, operated and maintained by a team of approximately twenty EDF Hydro Alpes technicians and engineers, can increase power output by 40% along the same stretch of river (La Romanche).

Its output will equate to the amount of power consumed every year by the cities of Grenoble and Chambéry (230 000 inhabitants), using a decarbonised and renewable energy source.

In addition, it replaces 6 old plants and 5 old dams. Nature has been restored along the banks of the dam by replanting species that were gathered within a radius of 25 kilometres in order to prevent the proliferation of invasive plants.

Discover Solution 194: small scale nuclear reactors

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