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09.03.2007 General News

Mining Firms Contribute Towards Thermal Plant

Mining companies in the country have paid for the procurement of an 80-megawatt thermal plant for their operations to ease pressure on the national electricity grid, the Volta River Authority (VRA) has said.

The Power Economics Manager of the VRA, Mr Bernard Kofi Ellis, told the Daily Graphic at the ongoing 11th Ghana International Trade Fair that the plant would become operational during the year and added that the 80 megawatts which the VRA would gain as a result of the move by the mining companies would be channelled to other areas.

He said the VRA had also contracted engineers to technically evaluate the Osagyefo Power Barge, which was also due to be operational this year, to ensure that all parts were durable before it was put to use.

Mr Ellis said the company currently needed huge sums of money to invest in the construction of power plants to ensure that the country did not face energy problems in future but had failed to attract financiers because of the low tariffs being charged.

He explained that private financiers would only lend money to a company if they were sure that the money could be paid back within a stipulated time and added that because they had realised that the VRA sold power far below realistic prices they were reluctant to give loans to the company, with the contention that the money could not be paid back.

“Because of this problem, building power plants has become very difficult. If power is not sold at economic rates, no bank will be willing to lend us money,” he added.

With regard to calls that the VRA should recycle the water which flowed from the dam into the sea, Mr Ellis said it was not feasible.

He said the Akosombo hydro plant discharged 21 billion gallons of water every day and added that “this is how much water we need to send back into the dam every day and the energy needed for that is colossal”.

“It is this same Akosombo dam which, due to the low level of water, is unable to produce at full capacity, which will be used to power the water back,” he said.

Alternatively, he said, the VRA needed to procure 4,350,720 water tankers to carry just one day's water back into the lake or drill through the wall where the turbines were located to enable the water to flow back into the lake, saying that was impossible.

Mr Ellis said no company could procure that quantity of water tankers and added that drilling through the thick wall where the turbines were located would make the wall unstable and destabilise the dam.

On the argument that the construction of a hydro dam by the Burkinabe government on the Black Volta at Bagre was the cause of the low level of water in the Akosombo Dam, he said that was far from the case.

He explained that the Akosombo Dam took its supply from the Black and White Volta and the River Oti and said the total energy produced by the Burkinabe dam was 16 megawatts.

“So that dam cannot be the problem. On the contrary, water still flows to the Akosombo Dam. As long as the Burkinabe dam is operational, all the water it discharges will flow into the Akosombo Dam,” he said.

“The direct impact of the Bagre Dam is the loss of water due to evaporation from the surface of the Bagre Lake, but that is insignificant. If that water were available at Akosombo, it could be used to generate only 10 gigawatt hours (Gwh) of energy in a year, which is equivalent to less that a day's energy supply,” he added.

“Do not forget that the Bui Dam is also on one of the tributaries of the Black Volta. The capacity of the Bui Dam is 400MW but even that cannot starve the Akosombo Dam of water,” Mr Ellis explained.

Story By Mark-Anthony Vinorkor