Will Norochcholai fail again? : Officials fight tooth and nail to avert crisis | Sunday Observer

Will Norochcholai fail again? : Officials fight tooth and nail to avert crisis

23 October, 2016

After breaking down three times during the last 10 months and plunging the country into pitch darkness twice, citizens, engineers and officials alike want an assurance that the Lakvijaya Power Plant in Norochcholai will not fail again, a question which is yet to be met.

Damitha Kumarasinghe, Director General, Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), told the Sunday Observer, a breakdown of the power plant last week has prompted the commission to intervene and set up a committee to investigate and recommend the next course of action.

“We are appointing a three-member committee supported by technical expertise on electrical and mechanical assistance to investigate this particular failure to ascertain if it could have been avoided and recommend actions which can be taken to prevent such incidents in the future,” he said.

He referred to the report prepared by experts at the Manitoba HVDC Research Centre (MHRC) after the plant failed the first time this year, adding that their recommendations were useful in preventing an islandwide power outage when Norochcholai Power Plant shut down last week.

Last week, many parts of the North Central Province experienced a spate of power outages due to a trip in the Anuradhapura Transmission line which prompted the Norochcholai plant to automatically shut down.

PUCSL asks CEB to expedite implementation plan this month

Power cuts were enforced during peak hours for three days due to insufficient energy in the system, which could not be compensated with hydro power since the latter was also running at full capacity. Kumarasinghe added that the committee comprising an electrical engineer, mechanical engineer and legal counsel would be given three months to prepare a report which would be submitted to the PUCSL. “There are serious issues regarding the violation of the Electricity Provision Act which will need to be examined by this committee,” he said. In order to ensure that there will not be another islandwide power failure, the PUCSL has asked the Ceylon Electricity Board to submit its implementation schedule by the 28th of this month.

As soon as it is approved the implementation plan will fast track the construction and commissioning of the many power plants that the CEB had listed in its Least Cost Long Term Generation Plan which was conditionally approved by the PUCSL.

“Our plan is to add 1,200 megawatt of power to the grid and if we can do this on time, we may be able to avert a power crisis,” he said. “We cannot lose time being idle; the implementation schedule will ensure that we stay on track.”

Attempts to increase reserve power margin

Dr. Suren Batagoda, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy told the Sunday Observer that the Ministry was planning to increase the reserve margin to 600 megawatts in the system in the event that Norochcholai falters, so that the country will not experience a total power failure.

“We intend to purchase 100 megawatts of thermal power from the Heladhanavi Power Station and 25 megawatts more from the Ace Matara Power Station within the next two months, which will add 125 megawatts in the reserve, and we will increase the capacity with a few more agreements in the coming months,” he said.

The Heladhanavi Power Station is a 100 megawatt fuel oil-run power station operated by Heladhanavi Limited, a subsidiary of Hemas Holdings and decomissioned in 2015 on the request of the Minister of Power and Renewable Energy.

The power station consisted of six Wartsila 18V46 generation units of 17 MWeach.

The Ace Matara Power Station is a 25 megawatt power station in Matara. During its operations from 2002-2012, the plant utilized four 6.3 MW Wärtsilä 18V32LN generating units.

The plant was decommissioned in 2012 after its 10-year Power Purchase Agreement expired.

Meanwhile, Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ranjith Siyambalapitiya promised that all three generators of the Norochcholai power plant will be fully operational before the end of next week negating the need to enforce sporadic power cuts at peak hours in the country.

After many months of fraught discussions, India has ended a deadlock over discussions regarding the planned Coal Power plant in Sampur by pledging that it would build a solar power plant instead.

It was reported that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had brought up the matter at a recent meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena in the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Goa, last week.

Sri Lanka scrapped all plans to set up a coal power plant after a legal tussle over environmental concerns emanating from the plant. Much of the concerns, environmentalists said were not appropriately addressed in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).