Ukuwela generator collapse
The Ceylon Electricity Board once again imposed an islandwide power cut recently following the sudden breakdown of the generators at the Norochcholai Power Plant which fed the national grid with 900 megawatts.
Interruptions to the power supply are inevitable if alternative sources of electricity are not available in the event of such emergencies such as the breakdown reported at the Norochcholai Power Plant. In such instances the power supply must be reinforced with hydropower. If aided by wind energy the power supply can continue without interruption in such situations.
During the recent drought, CEB announced possible power cuts due to the shortage of water in reservoirs. This however was not true and was proven with the breakdown of the Norochcholai power plant.
The CEB had earlier decided to impose three and half hour power cuts which were later limited to one and half hours following negotiations with the Department of Irrigation. This in fact reflects the weakness of the assumptions made by CEB on the scarcity of water for power generation.
Meanwhile the breakdown of a generator at the Ukuwela Power Plant due to negligence on the part of engineers - causing a 40 megawatt power loss to the national grid-- is one of a series of disasters that can be attributed to the inattentiveness of the CEB engineers.
One of the twin generators has now become practically irreparable after being left unattended, since signs of its faulty operation were reported three months ago. However engineers have now commenced repairs to one generator, while the other continues to operate.
Generation of electricity is an additional gain of the Mahaweli Programme implemented mainly to improve the irrigation system of the country with new reservoirs. There are several hydro power stations installed under the Mahaweli scheme – Victoria, Kothmale, Upper Kothmale, Ukuwela and Bowathenna Randenigala, Rantambe and Nilambe.
.The average lifetime of the generator plants installed at these power stations is 50 – 80 years. The periodical repairs to these plants are done by the installation companies themselves. Engineers are responsible to ensure the proper operation of these machines as well as their repairs and maintenance.
Engineers are responsible to ensure the proper operation of these machines as well as their repairs and maintenance
However these facts indicate the negligence of the engineers with regard to the maintenance service of the generator at the Ukuwela Power Station.
Damages caused to the generator are about Rs. 9 million. To restore the power supply to the expected level, alternatives available are an overall repair to the damaged generator at a cost of Rs.12 million or replacement its with a new one. So far this fact is unknown to the higher authorities, according to the employees.
Engineers have secretly started to do the repairs replacing damaged parts with parts that have been removed from the generators in other power stations
Meanwhile engineers have discreetly started to do the repairs replacing damaged parts with parts that have been removed from the generators in other power stations. But these parts do not seem to be compatible.
The Japanese company which has undertaken the maintenance work say these damages are not covered under the maintenance agreement.
The cost of the damages with all other connected expenses and the estimated loss caused by the breakdown is about Rs.14 million.
We were also able to obtain the comparative statistics relating to the megawatts of hours of power generated. 9.18 gigawatts hours were fed to the national grid during the month of March whereas this figure had declined to 4.65 gigawatts in April. These are from records maintained manually and therefore raises suspicion.
I was informed that maintenance should be continued – CEB General Manager
When we asked for a clarification about the present situation of the Ukuwela Power Station, CEB General Manager Yamuna Samarasinghe said she was only aware of the need of maintenance service for the generators.
“There is nothing wrong at Ukuwela. There are two generators at Ukuwela. One is functioning normally and the other one has been temporarily closed for maintenance work.
Now it is more than 30 years since these generators were installed and they need major maintenance every
Now it is more than 30 years since these generators were installed and they need major maintenance every 2-3 years. Generally Hydro Electricity generators have a lifetime of 50-80 years. But practically it is not so. With proper maintenance they could be used for a longer period. Some blame engineers for the breakdown of the generator. No it is not due to anyone’s fault. We went inside and observed the generators and the surroundings ( we detailed what we observed) I am not aware of these things. I only instructed and stressed the need of appropriate maintenance”
Other games of Engineers
In addition to the Ukuwela issue, we were told about several more irregularities and discrepancies for which CEB engineers were blamed.
On a decision of the CEB to equip all the power stations coming under the Mahaweli Scheme with a security camera system at an estimated cost of Rs.30 million, CEB has called for tenders from the suppliers. The decision of awarding the tender to the successful bidder is yet to be taken. Meanwhile one of the competitive bidder is said to have held a lavish party for the CEB authorities. CEB employees say he has the higher chance of being awarded the tender.
Developing software by officials of the CEB Information Technology Unit to maintain an inventory of items belonging to the institute has been abandoned halfway after investing many millions of rupees
Developing software by officials of the CEB Information Technology Unit to maintain an inventory of items belonging to the institute has been abandoned halfway after investing many millions of rupees. However the engineers attached to the Samanalawewa Project have been able to develop the intended software without incurring any cost and now it has been in operation for a year. But yet their effort has not received due recognition or appreciation due to the negative attitude of some of the high ranking CEB officials .