Optimisation of the Socorridos Hydro power station Madeira

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This project concerns optimisation of the Socorridos Hydroelectric Power Station in use since 1995. It is the largest and most important hydraulic system for production of water for public supply, irrigation and hydro energy in Madeira. The project represents an important step forward in the process of taking advantage of renewable energy sources, particularly of eolic origin.

Equipped with three generator groups of 8 MW, this power station provides maximum power of 24 MW. The system includes a 15.5 km long succession of tunnels (underground canals) and canals (open air) as well as a hydroelectric power station. The joint coordination of these infrastructures makes it possible to transfer water collected in the northern part of the island (higher and mountainous where it rains) to the southern part of the island. The water is used for irrigation, public supply of water and energy production.

However, as the capacity of the primitive loading chamber was limited to a maximum 7,500 m3, which was not enough water, its production of electricity and guaranteed power occurred essentially during the rainy season (winter).

The Empresa de Electricidade da Madeira (EEM, the public electricity company of Madeira) carried out the project which transformed the Socorridos Hydroelectric Power Station into a reversible system, making it possible to take advantage of its power capacity at any time of the year, regardless of rainfall.

The project consisted of 4 main parts:

  • Construction of the Covão tunnel
  • Construction of the Socorridos storage gallery/reservoir
  • Renovation of the Encumeada and Canal do Norte tunnels
  • A pumping station at Socorridos

Together these elements ensured that more water was available for irrigation and public supply. Moreover, energy production all year round and also during the day at peak periods was guaranteed. Water was pumped back to reservoirs so that it could be reused for electricity production. By reusing the water, electricity production could be ensured all year round. The pumps are driven during the night, storing the water for use during peak hours during the daytime. Additionally, the pumps can be connected and then can make increased use of wind power, thus producing more renewable energy during the night. This initiative, as part of the Socorridos Multiple Purpose Utilization Project, represented not only a significant investment in the management of the regional hydroelectric resources but also an important step forward in the process of taking advantage of renewable energy sources, particularly of eolic origin.

One of the objectives of the regional strategy of the Autonomous Region of Madeira is that of sustainable development, facilitating the promotion of social and economic wellbeing with the protection of the natural resources that sustain quality of life. Within the scope of this objective, the environmental dimension entails a strategic priority. The investment in this project, with low environmental impact, had the clear aim of contributing towards development of the Madeiran economy, giving it more and better energy, in other words, sustainable development.

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Região Autónoma da Madeira

Technical information

Total Investment

EUR 34 700 000

EU contribution

EUR 17 300 000


Instituto de Gestão de Fundos Comunitários Travessa do Cabido, 16
P- 9000-715 , Funchal Portugal Tel. : +351 291 214 000 E-mail : info@ifc-madeira.gov.pt Empresa de Electricidade da Madeira Avenida do
Mar e das Comunidades Madeirenses, nº 32
P- 9054-523 , Funchal Portugal Rui , Rebelo Tel. : +351 291 211 300 E-mail : rrebelo@eem.pt Mário , Jardim Fernandes Tel. : +351 291 211 300 E-mail : jfernandes@eem.pt