Chameliya hydro project finally comes online

- BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu

Jan 13, 2018-

Chameliya Hydropower Project, one of the most delayed infrastructure projects in Nepal, has finally started generating electricity a decade after it began its construction.

The 30MW hydropower project owned by Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the state-owned power utility, started producing power from its first turbine on Friday. 

On Friday afternoon, the project transmitted 4MW of electricity produced by one of its two turbines to the national grid via the 132kV Blanch-Attariya transmission line. 

“Although every turbine of the project can produce 15MW of electricity, we are currently conducting the test of the entire system. Hence, the plant was operated at a lower capacity today,” said Ajay Kumar Dahal, NEA appointed project chief of Chameliya. “The power generation capacity will be raised from Sunday when we plan to start conducting load rejection test of the transmission line.” 

The load rejection test, which will continue for five days, will examine the system’s ability to withstand sudden loss of load and its capability to return to normal operating condition thereafter. Upon completion of the test, the project will conduct reliability test, under which electricity will be generated at full capacity for 72 hours. “The first unit of the power plant will start commercial generation of electricity after this test is complete,” said Dahal. The project is also planning to start wet test of the plant’s second turbine within a few days. 

“We have already asked Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company, the electro- and hydro-mechanical contractor of the project, to start the test,” said Dahal. 

During the wet test, water from the tunnel will be channelled to various hydro- and electro-mechanical equipments, including turbines. Technicians will then examine if all the machines are functioning properly. 

“This test will be completed in three weeks, following which the second turbine will start generating electricity at full capacity,” said Dahal. 

With the operation of the second turbine, one of the most troubled hydro projects located in Darchula district of far-west Nepal, will finally start generating electricity at full capacity.

The construction of Chameliya started in January 2008 and was originally scheduled to be completed by June 2011 at a cost of Rs8 billion. But the completion date was pushed back repeatedly due to disputes between NEA and the contractors. This time overrun has inflated the project cost to around Rs15 billion. The project faced the biggest hurdle in May 2014 when all works came to a grinding halt following the government’s refusal to make an additional payment of Rs1.09 billion. The payment was sought by China Gezhouba Group Corporation, the civil contractor of the project, stating “cost variance resulting from the squeezing of the tunnel”. The contractor agreed to resume work after being summoned to the Energy Ministry by then energy minister Janardan Sharma.

The Chinese civil contractor for the project, which returned to work in October 2016, then speeded up work and completed the construction within the deadline.

Published: 13-01-2018 08:30

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