By Kaleyesus Bekele, Ethiopian Reporter
More than 70 percent of the maintenance work on Gilgel Gibe II hydro-electric power plant has been completed. Alemayehu Tegenu, the Minister of Mines and Energy, told The Reporter that an all-out effort was being made to finalize the maintenance work of the water tunnel at Gibe II, adding that more than 70 percent of the challenging task has been completed.
The Gibe II hydro-electric power station, which has an installed power generating capacity of 420 MW, was inaugurated last January. The plant suspended power generation in February when boulders broke into the 26 km long tunnel. The incident occurred at a spot 8,980 meters from the water outlet and 1300 meters beneath the mountain. The area that is broken by the rocks is 15 meters long. However, about 1.3 km of the tunnel was inaccessible because of the rocks that blocked passage and trapped the water.
Alemayehu said that since the incident occurred, the contractor, the consultant and the client [the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo)] have been exerting utmost efforts to repair the damage done by the natural geological phenomenon. A railway line, ventilation pipe and electric power lines were re-installed in the cave. More than 12,000 cu.m. of rocks and earth were excavated from the spot. The trapped water was also released.
Ato Alemayehu said the most challenging work was carried out by foreign and local professionals. “Currently, the tunnel is being reinforced and maintained. Inspection work on the rest of the cave is being done. If there is no unforeseen hurdle to climb, the maintenance work will be finalized in September,” Ato Alemayehu said. “It is a very challenging task. Employees of the contractor, the consultant and the EEPCo are paying a sacrifice. I would like to commend all the parties involved in the maintenance work,” the minister said.
Gibe II started operation in September last year when it was generating about 200 MW. Gibe II was constructed by the Italian construction firm, Salini, at a cost of 374 million euros. The Ethiopian government secured a loan for the project from the Italian government and European Investment Bank.
The project was inaugurated by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi last January. The incident has broken the hearts of many individuals involved in the project. But it also made them to react vigorously so as to work it out. Presenting a report to Parliament, Ato Meles said the maintenance work would be finalized by August this year unless unforeseen problems were encountered.