Chapter 3: When the trout came back

Chapter 3: When the trout came back

Fifty kilometres south of Östersund’s city centre, Claes-Göran Bergh gazes down at the Billsta stream. Here, the hydroelectric power supplying energy to Scania’s electric buses in Östersund coexists with high ecological values.

In 1964 Bergh joined Jämtkraft’s predecessor Östersunds Elektriska AB – on the first day of his working life. He started by washing analogue electric meters with gasoline. Soon he advanced to building high voltage lines. After five years of environmental studies, his career took a new direction. Now, he is Environmental Manager at Jämtkraft, and is passionate about sustainable overall solutions.

He points at the wooden tunnel that leads the water down to the turbine in one of Billsta stream’s three small-scale power plants. He explains that it matters how the electricity is produced when operating buses in local traffic.

“Fossil-produced electricity, using for example coal, has a major impact on the climate, while the electricity that we produce in the Billsta stream is renewable and fully carbon neutral. It is more the kind of electricity requested by the community, and that you want when working with transport.”

The Billsta stream runs from Lake Näkten, down to Storsjön, the fifth largest lake by water surface in Sweden. In the 19th century, the lake was surrounded by rich wildlife. But 100 years ago, when a saw and mill were built, and timber was transported on the water, it lost its natural current.

Fast forward to today, and the project “Förbifart Billsta” (Bypass Billsta). In an unconventional cooperation with Jämtkraft, The County Administrative Board of Jämtland, The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the fisheries area of Storsjön-Berg, the small hydroelectric stations in the Billsta river were built. Three fish ladders were created to bypass the power plants, a dam was removed, and the waterways could eventually be reopened for fish migration.

Like turning on a switch

“What´s incredible is that the Billsta stream was closed for 100 years, but the genetics in the fish in Storsjön still remained. When the power plants were rebuilt, and the stream was reopened, it was like turning on a switch! Immediately, the grayling began to move up the river to play. Suddenly, hundreds of large trout – some weighing up to 10 kilograms – were climbing up the bypass channels.”

Even the eel are back, and osprey have been seen around the Billsta river.

“It is like all these species took a pause for 100 years”

Claes-Göran Bergh smiles happily and concludes: “It is like all these species took a pause for 100 years. Now we are able to operate the public transport system in Östersund with renewable electricity, while increasing biodiversity. There is a huge spectrum of benefits with this project, and they all lead to a more sustainable society.”

With the electric bus project, Jämtkraft reaches the inhabitants in Östersund doubly, as the energy company’s customers consume electricity at home as well.

“As we use renewable electricity in multiple systems, Jämtkraft and our customers can reduce fossil energy consumption very effectively. Scania’s electric buses obviously contribute in a good way to a more profitable deal for us in this production of renewable electricity.”

Watch the trout move up the Billsta river

  • Current data from fish counting stations around Sweden is presented at fiskdata.se. When the fish pass the counter in for example the Billsta river, time, direction, speed and size of the fish are recorded. At the same time, a shadow image is created that allows you to distinguish whether the registered object is a fish or not.
  • The fish counting stations are also equipped with underwater cameras that record every object. With the video, it is possible to determine the species of the fish with high accuracy.
  • Watch the giant trout move upstream in the Billsta river here.

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