Back to start


Ritsem Hydro Power Station is most likely to be Sweden’s last major construction in the wilderness; work to build the facility started in 1971. Several advanced technologies were used in the project. But the process leading up to the start of construction was also hampered by objections, debates and negotiations between various stakeholders. In the initial plan for Ritsem Power Station, Lake Autajaure was to be regulated, leading to a significant reduction in water discharge. Another venture, discussed in parallel with the Ritsem project, was to result in further alterations in the flow of the Lule Älv River. Due to objections from various stakeholders, however, it was decided that the initial plan for Ritsem Hydro Power Station should be altered to meet stakeholder demands more effectively.

Building an impressive tunnel

In the new proposal, Lake Autajaure was spared from regulation. Instead a tunnel was to be built from Lake Sitasjaure, leading the water to the power station. The construction of the tunnel was one of the most ambitious rock excavation operations in Sweden at the time, with the volume of excavated rock amounting to 2.5 million m3. The final stretch of the tunnel has impressive statistics: 16.3 kilometres in length and a width and height of 11 metres each. The machine hall was excavated 160 metres below ground level and had the largest unit in the whole of the Lule Älv River at the time.

Breakthrough technology

Another breakthrough in conjunction with the construction of the Ritsem power station was the use of advanced drilling technology. Pneumatic drills were being replaced by hydraulically driven drills, reducing the problem of oil mist and increasing efficiency. Furthermore, hand-held drilling was replaced by mechanical drilling. For the first time ever in Sweden, they used a so-called full-face assembly for a power plant.

Characteristics of the Lule Älv River

Hydro power is a reliable, safe and renewable source of energy. Today, hydro power accounts for nearly half of Sweden’s total electricity demand. The Lule Älv River, by which Ritsem is located, is Vattenfall’s and Sweden’s most important river for hydro power generation.

When Ritsem Power Station was commissioned in 1977, it was the last facility to be commissioned in the Lule Älv River.