Madeira develops hydropower for use all year round

The Socorridos hydroelectric power station has been developed to optimise water production for locals and for irrigation, as well as to take advantage of renewable energy sources. Using a system of tunnels and canals 15.5 km long, the project makes the most of the island’s geographical layout – collecting water in the mountainous north and transferring it to the south.

Additional tools

Upgraded hydroelectric power station supplying water for people and irrigation Upgraded hydroelectric power station supplying water for people and irrigation

“The Socorridos project was crucial in harnessing hydro and wind resources, and in bringing the benefits of this to the entire region. The project made water and electricity supplies more reliable for both general use and irrigation, and it minimised water loss. The main benefits were felt in Funchal and Câmara de Lobos where 50% of Madeira’s population reside.”
Luis Pinheiro, Construction Manager, Empresa de Electricidade da Madeira

The project is promoting social and economic well-being while protecting national resources to sustain the quality of life enjoyed by Madeirans and the many tourists who come to the island each year to take in the spectacular scenery.

Building change

Madeira’s public electricity company transformed the Socorridos hydroelectric power station into a reversible system which would allow energy production all year round regardless of rainfall. In the summer season especially, water could be pumped back into the reservoirs and reused for electricity production. Even peak periods were covered as the pumps operated during the night and stored water for daytime use.

Four main stages made this development possible:  a tunnel was built to connect Covão and Campanário; a storage gallery was built in Socorridos; two existing tunnels were renovated, and a pumping station was set up in Socorridos.

The Covão tunnel holding up to 32 500 m³ supplies water for irrigation and stores it to guarantee a reliable supply of water and electricity. The Socorridos storage gallery is an underground reservoir storing up to 40 000 m³ of water and housing pumping equipment. The Encumeada and Canal do Norte tunnels store up to 55 000 m³ of water and have gates to regulate the flow of water, allowing some to be sent to a water treatment plant for public consumption and some to be supplied for irrigation.

Assessing the impact

The success of this project can be largely attributed to the environmental concerns which were taken on board by all those involved, from regional government as single shareholder to the engineering and construction companies. Together they managed to ensure the project had no adverse effects on the environment.

This allowed for Madeira’s main tourism sector which represents about €250 million annually to continue to expand unhindered. As many as 900 000 tourists come to the island each year to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and stroll along the many canals. It was essential not just to boost energy and water supplies to cover this sector but also to keep construction unobtrusive around the canals.

Building on this achievement, Madeira will now develop the much larger hydropower station at Calheta. This project will be implemented in 2010-2012.

Draft date