Hydropower Plant Komarnica has been the subject of discussion for decades. The structure which is constantly being scrutinized by both the professionals and the inhabitants, always causing conflicting reactions of all (non)interested parties. The idea of construction of this energy facility on the river of the same name originally occurred as early as in the seventies of the last century. Komarnica River is the main tributary of Piva River which has considerable hydropower potential partially used in construction of HPP Piva in 1976.

In several studies and previous works on provision of suitable documents on the above area, the location of the dam was defined in Lonci section with altitude of 818 masl which was later corrected to 816 masl, approx. 45 km upsteam from HPP Piva.

HPP Komarnica is provided for in suitable planning documents, primarily in the Energy Development Strategy to 2030 (2014) and Water Management Plan of the Republic of Montenegro (2001). These documents represent a legal basis for preparation of Schematic Design and Feasibility Study for construction of this structure. The solution for construction of the structure proposed in the previous studies (eighties of the previous century) was condemned by the local population and various environmental associations due to devastation of the natural environment and sinking     of the famous “pearl” of Montenegro, Nevidio Canyon. The environmental activists hold the opinion that the artificial reservoir would severely jeopardize the unique flora and fauna on this insufficiently explored area which is a home of some endemic species. On the one side, there is the significant hydropower potential and the possibility of construction of energetically strategic facility, whereas on the other side, there is the issue of jeopardizing environmentally attractive and unique area in this part of Europe.

The Client, design team, consultants and relevant authorities faced a great challenge the modern age: how to find a compromise of energetics and ecology? How to provide the benefits that this facility could bring to Montenegro and the region and simultaneously preserve the indisputably unique natural beauty and riches of the considered locality? An answer to these questions was given through preparation of technical documentation of Schematic Design and Feasibility Study for construction of HPP Komarnica with the Study of the Environmental Impact of HPP Komarnica, in cooperation with the Client and knowledge and experience of the team of designers and professional associates of EP Hidoinzenjering. Schematic Design was prepared in 2 phases: in the first phase, optimization analyses were carried out, based on all acquired knowledge and available technical documentation defining the technical parameters of the buildings, primarily the type of dam and layout of the facility, normal pool level, installed flow rate and number of generators. In the second phase, the adopted optimum technical solution was developed in accordance with design brief and current legal regulations. Taking into account the need for protection of natural beauties and maximum preservation of the existing settlements of local inhabitants, the Client and design team worked on this technical documentation taking as their starting point the condition that the pool level of Komarnica reservoir cannot flood Nevidio canyon and Savnik settlement. Observing this limitation, design team defined technical solution of the facility that would jeopardize neither the essential natural values of regional park Dragisnjica and Komarnica nor Nevidio canyon. The most important habitats of the regional park are located above the altitude of 811 masl, whereas the use of Nevidio canyon will not be changed. Adopted technical solution implies construction of a double-curvature concrete arch dam with variable thickness both vertically and horizontally, with front spillway and tailrace tunnel and run-of-the-river power plant with above ground machine building with rated capacity of 130+8 m3/s. Adopted solution provides for two Francis type water turbines with rated flow of 65 m3/s and one smaller water turbine with rated flow of 8 m3/s. Rated power of the power plant is 2×81+9.9 МW. Adopted normal pool level of the reservoir is 811 masl, volume of the reservoir 137.4 million m3, dam crest level 814 masl, dam height 171 m, length in dam crest 211.4 m, width 5 m. Within extensive energy analyses that included the characteristics of energy systems not only of Montenegro, but of the region, as well and the current situation on the electric power market, design team of EP Hidroinzenjering defined the place and role of HPP Komarnica both in the system of Electric Power Industry of Serbia and of Montenegro and its potentials on the market. It is provided that HPP Komarnica be engaged in covering the demands in terms of energy and power in analysed systems. Considering the size of useful volume of the reservoir, power plant will follow the seasonal changes in consumption and peak load of the system. High position of HPP Komarnica in the catchment area gives it significance in covering the demands in the cold reserve of the system when the effects on the downstream facilities are realised. Average annual production of the hydropower plant would be 213 GWh. With such performance, HPP Komarnica is without a doubt a strategic facility of common interest. In addition to this, introduction of renewable resources which are the choice of all electric power industries in the region, will emphasize the issue of reserve capacities and the need for their use.

Design team with support and presence of the Client’s work group, observed the above area several times both from the land and from the river, in a boat. At the time of low water level in August  2019, a team of designers and associates engaged in preparation of Environmental Report walked through a large part of the canyon wading through water with the intention of locating local springs and sampling water to determine its quality. At that time, all geologically and hydrogeologically interesting localities were identified and documented. This way, the design team directly familiarized itself with the beauty and wilderness of the canyon and inaccessible, barely passable woods. With such unique experience and perspective of the canyon, high level of responsibly and awareness of all the challenges, our designers with associates exerted maximum effort to find a solution that would offer quality use of such hydropower potential with maximum preservation of the natural wealth of this intact area. Also, productive conversations with the representatives of Savnik Municipality took place for the purpose of visualisation of actual sociodemographic conditions, active measures of environmental protection and expectations of the local population. The quality of design documentation that properly and argumentatively responds to the challenges of social and environmental issues, is to a large extent the result of immediate, active and constructive cooperation of design team of EP and Client’s representative from EPCG.

Optimum technical solution of HPP Komarnica was coordinated with all necessary conditions of relevant authorities (water management, environmental, cultural and historical, infrastructural, connection to the system etc.), which are contained in or constitute an integral part of urban and technical conditions.

It is also important to note that the Study of regional strategy of sustainable hydropower in the western Balkans (WBIF), supported by the European Commission, ranked HPP Komarnica along the environmentally acceptable greenfield projects.

The area provided for formation of reservoir is unpopulated, there are no industrial capacities, roads, commercial buildings or households that would be jeopardized. On the contrary, through implementation of this project, extremely underdeveloped Savnik Municipality would get a chance to experience an accelerated growth through development of tertiary activities, especially in the field of tourism. In addition to this, prospective lake can offer conditions for water sports and recreation for the population of its wider surroundings. There is a potential for the water reservoir to have an important role in irrigation of the surrounding area. From all of the above, it is clear that this project requires professional expertise and visualisation of all its aspects, not only the technical ones.

Construction of HPP Komarnica will be the first big project of this type after several decades in these areas. A big challenge, a big stake and even bigger responsibility. Without a doubt, this is one of the most attractive endeavours in the region which is yet to be heard of and we believe it will be heard of in a good light.