Life4Fish: fish conservation and sustainable energy production go hand in hand, with help from Actemium

Grands-Malades / Ivoz-Ramet / Monsin / Lixhe, 27 June 2023 - At several sites in Wallonia, Luminus hydropower plants provide renewable energy. That is a positive, except for young salmon and European eels, which see their migration routes to the sea blocked by the plants. Faced with this problem, EDF-Luminus, Profish, the universities of Namur and Liège and Actemium joined forces in the Life4Fish project, to come up with a solution and guarantee the fish a safe passage. With the solution, which received support from the European LIFE program, Actemium is actively contributing to the preservation of our ichthyofauna, or underwater life.

Predictive model ensures safe migration of European eel and salmon smolt past hydropower plants on Meuse River.

While the debate about the nuclear exit rages on, the shift towards renewable energy seems to be irreversible. Next to wind and solar, hydropower is another inexhaustible and sustainable source of energy in this regard. But, like wind turbines and solar panels, hydropower plants also face a number of specific challenges – such as, for instance, the migration of certain fish species along our waterways. This is the case, for example, for reference species such as the European eel, but also juvenile salmon, for whom the power plants along the Meuse represent obstacles on their migration to the sea.

Automated predictions

Together with the other Life4Fish partners, Actemium therefore developed a multi-faceted solution. This solution consists of a system to manage the dam’s opening times, the creation of an electric field underwater to lead the fish to a specially designed passage past the turbines, and a predictive model allowing to predict peak fish migration times. Based on these predictions, the model automatically manages the dam opening times and the underwater passage, so fish can pass safely without any turbines needing to be stopped.

An automated model was developed based on historical data and real-time observations, like flow rate, predicted flow and water temperature. On the basis of an automated 24-hour forecast and a number of specific parameters, operators can then make informed decisions to minimize fish mortality”, explains Jean-Christophe Cerfontaine, Branch Manager Life Sciences and Data Management at Actemium.

Specifically, Actemium was responsible for the information exchange with Walloon authorities and the integration of all data from the Meuse into Luminus’ computer systems. In the coming years, the project will be followed up with the installation of a new type of turbines, specially designed to have a minimal impact on underwater fauna and flora.

Sustainability at the basis

At Actemium, sustainability is at the core of our activities – just look at the Sustainable Energy chair we recently set up with Ghent University. Respecting and preserving our environment is a big part of that. This project is a fine example of how we not only proclaim this vision, but make it a reality in the field, with concrete solutions for our customers and partners”, says Luc Clabout, Managing Director at Actemium Belgium.