Ghanaians, appear to have been swindled by the promoters of the US$622 million Bui Hydro Dam project as what many thought was the nation’s panacea to the perennial energy crisis, has turned out to be a somewhat useless venture.
At the time of it inception, the Bui Dam, was advertised to have in its belly a maximum generation capacity of about 400MW – about one-third of Volta River Authority (VRA’s) production – and a net average annual energy production of 1000 gigawatt hour/year (GWh/yr) but last Monday, Ghanaians woke up to the shocking revelation on the Bui Dam.
A statement from Bui Power Authority, revealed that since the construction of the dam, the reservoir created by the construction of the Bui Dam, which was designed to have a maximum water level of 183 meters above sea level with a minimum operating level for power generation of 168 masl, has not been able to meet expectations.
Meanwhile, claims are that huge kickbacks went to those behind the construction of the dam by way of founders’ fees among others. Indeed, it is alleged that the Chinese constructors and some operatives of the John Agyekum Kufuor regime, knew all along that the Bui hydro dam, cannot operate at a maximum capacity to supplement the nation’s power requirement.
The Authority said, “in view of the depleted reservoir, the Bui G.S. is unable to maintain the high rate of power generation and production has had to be reduced in order to protect the turbines from potential damage”.
The statement was signed by Mawuli Fui Kwadzovia, Assistant Extension & Communications Relations Officer.
The total cost of the project, which was started by the Kufuor administration was US$622 million. The government of Ghana provided US$60 million, whiles the Eximbank of China provided a loan of US$562 million.
The US$562 million, was made up of a Concessionary Loan of US$268.5 million and a Buyer’s Credit Loan of US$293.5 million.
Sinohydro Corporation of China did the construction of the dam from the Black Volta with Coyne Et Bellier (Consulting Engineers) as the Consultants.
600 Ghanaian artisans and labourers, were employed on site with 280 Contractors’ expatriate staff from China and Pakistan. The Pakistanis were mainly Machine Operators.
About 400MW (about one-third of VRA’s production) and a net average annual energy production of 1000 gigawatt hour/year (GWh/yr) maximum generation capacity was expected but this the press statement from the Bui Power has not been realized.
Giving a background into the project, the Bui Power Authority said, “the reservoir created by the construction of the Bui Dam was designed to have a maximum water level of 183 meters above sea level (masl) and a minimum operating level for power generation of 168 masl.
It said, “by June 2011 construction of the dam had progressed sufficiently to allow the commencement of river impoundment. Filling of the Bui reservoir therefore commenced on June 8th 2011 and about two years later; ie by March 2013, the water level had risen from about 100.0 masl to more than 168.0 masl. This level was just adequate to allow the start of power generation in May 2013”.
But “at the end of the 2013 rainy season in October 2013, the reservoir level had risen to 177.9 masl which was still well below the maximum reservoir level. The limited amount of water stockpiled during the rainy season therefore had to be used judiciously in order to last through the dry season and until the start of next rainy season in July 2014”.
It went on “based on the limited amount of water obtained in the 2013 rainy season, BPA planned to draw down the Bui reservoir at a rate which could be sustained throughout the dry season. Generation was therefore to be restricted to an average of about 1.44 million kWh/day during the period. The planned trajectory of the Bui Reservoir from January 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014, as shown on the attached graph, was for the level to fall gradually to 171.5 masl by end of June 2014”.
It disclosed that “in response to the inadequate power supply from other sources experienced in the last quarter of 2013, the system operator, GRIDCo, requested BPA to temporarily increase power generation from the planned draft rate of 1.44 million kWh/day to an over-draft rate of 3.66 million kWh/day from November 2013 (about 2.5 times the target rate) in order to supplement existing generation. As a result of this new arrangement, the Bui Generating Station had by mid-May 2014 produced 450 million kWh of electrical power to support national demand, instead of the planned generation of 180 million kWh”.
“The substantial change in the energy generation plan has resulted in the fast depletion of the reservoir to the minimum operating level of 168.0 masl by mid-May as against the planned target of 173.7 masl by the end of June 2014 per the optimized plan for water usage”, the statement said.
It noted that “as a result of the Bui Reservoir reaching the minimum operating level, the rate of power generation at Bui Generating Station has been reduced in order to protect the turbines from potential damage. This is because it is imprudent to operate the generating plant below the minimum operating level of the reservoir (168 masl) as this unduly exposes the turbines to higher risks of cavitation damage”.
Mr. Kwadzovia’s statement said, “the current situation is also not favored by the hydrology of the Black Volta River as expected inflows in May and June are usually very low. BPA is monitoring the reservoir level and will revise the production plan in conjunction with GRIDCo as soon as it is prudent to do so”.
In this regard, “the exceedingly high level of generation support that the Bui Generating Station has been providing to the national electricity grid since the commissioning of the Bui plant has caused the Bui reservoir level to fall to the minimum operating level of 168 masl”.
“In view of the depleted reservoir, the Bui G.S. is unable to maintain the high rate of power generation and production has had to be reduced in order to protect the turbines from potential damage. This is necessary because it is imprudent to operate the generating plant below the minimum operating level of the reservoir (168 masl) as this unduly exposes the turbines to higher risks of cavitation damage”, the statement said.
It concluded that “BPA is monitoring the reservoir level and will revise the production plan in conjunction with GRIDCo as soon as it is warranted”.
Meanwhile, arguments have been made about the Burkina Faso, also constructing a dam on its part of the Volta Lake. Beside, change in weather pattern as a result of global warming is affecting rainfall and the water level. Another school of thought is that, hydro dams, have become obsolete in the world and that Ghana must turn its attention to thermal and nuclear energy.