Karnataka’s first 500 MW thermal plant goes on stream

November 3rd, 2008 - 4:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyBellary (Karnataka), Nov 3 (IANS) The first 500 MW thermal power plant in power-starved Karnataka, built at a cost of Rs.21 billion, was commissioned Monday at Kudatini town in Bellary district. Built by the state-run Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd (BHEL) on turnkey basis for the Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd (KPCL), the power plant was formally dedicated to the state by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani in the presence of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and other dignitaries.

Ironically, the foundation stone for the mega plant had been laid at Kudatini, about 320 km from Bangalore, by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in March 2002 as part of a “Bellary package” she announced after winning from the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency in October 1999. She had defeated BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj.

The Congress leader, however, forfeited the Bellary seat subsequently to retain the Rae Bareilly parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh, the traditional bastion of the Gandhi family.

To assuage the “hurt feelings” of the Bellary electorate, Gandhi persuaded then Congress chief minister S.M. Krishna to set up the plant in her erstwhile constituency as a thanksgiving gesture to the people of this backward district in north Karnataka.

“The first 500 MW thermal station in Karnataka will augment the power-generation capacity of the state and meet the growing demand for energy by agriculture, industry and domestic sectors, which have been reeling under load-shedding and erratic supply,” a KPCL official told IANS.

As in the case of other infrastructure projects in the country, the project execution was delayed by over two years for various reasons, mainly bureaucratic and technical.

Acquisition of 1,750 acres of land, budgetary allocation and raising funds took more than 20 months for the project to take-off the ground. Civil works in a barren land and delays in supply and erection of the plant by BHEL dragged the project by another 18 months.

“Fortunately, there is no cost over-run as the project has been executed under fixed price contract. On the contrary, we have invoked the penalty clause for delays and withheld payment of Rs.2.45 billion to BHEL,” KPCL executive director Narayan Prasad said.

After months of trials, the plant was connected to the state grid and commercial production began July 28. KPCL will sell the power at Rs.2.20 per unit to the distribution companies (discoms), generating 10 million units per day and 3,504 million units per annum.

The company has entered into a 30-year agreement with Western Coal Ltd (WCL) for supply of 2.2 million metric tonnes of washed coal per annum. It has formed a joint venture with WCL to own and develop the coal mine in western coalfields at Chandrapur near Nagpur in Maharashtra.

“Due to high flyash content (30 percent) of Indian coal, imported coal from Indonesia is mixed to fire the boiler in the ratio of 80:20. About 3,000 tonnes of flyash, generated per day, will be supplied to cement plants and SSI (small scale industries) at Rs.100 per tonne to generate additional revenue,” Prasad said.

The flyash is used to make bricks, tiles and lightweight aggregates. It can also be used for road construction, asbestos cement (AC) sheet production and ash dyke construction.

The plant uses regenerated water from the Maralihalla stream, 37 km away from the site, at the rate of one tmc (thousand million cubic feet) per annum.

Going forward, KPCL plans to add two more 500 MW units at the plant so as to acquire mega status for the entire project from the central government.

“We have commenced civil works for the second unit, which is estimated to cost about Rs.20 billion. BHEL will execute the project on turnkey basis. Commissioning is scheduled for 2010. The third unit will be taken up subsequently,” KPCL technical director Muralidhar Rao said.

With the commissioning of the Bellary plant, the total installed capacity in the state will go up to 6,010 MW. Hydel power units account for 3,322 MW, and thermal power units 1,970 MW, including 1,470 MW from seven units of Raichur thermal plant. The remaining 718 MW is generated from wind energy and captive units in the private sector.

Surge in demand over the last three to four years from all sectors due to high economic growth and increasing consumption by the agriculture and domestic sectors is resulting in 20 to 25 percent shortage during non-peak and peak seasons.

“The unrestricted peak demand has shot up to 8,000 MW due to increasing consumption by agriculture, industry and domestic sectors. The average consumption is 120 million units per day during peak season as against 100 million units per day last year, registering an increase of about 20 percent,” another KPCL official said.

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