A project is in the pipeline to give the plant a complete overhaul

Hydropower: After generating power for 25 years, the Chumey mini hydel project in Bumthang has remained closed for more than a year now following a major mechanical break down due to dilapidation of crucial operational machines like turbines and flywheel.

According to Chumey Bhutan Power corporation (BPC), the mini hydel was shut in October 2013.  Also known as Gyetsa mini hydel project, it was constructed in 1988 to supply power to central Bhutan, particularly Bumthang.  Certain parts of Trongsa also received power from the mini hydel until recent years.

“Save for control panels, the rest of the operational machines, like turbines, flywheel and governors, are shut now,” Chumey BPC supervisor, Guru Tshering said.

The control panels are still used to transfer incoming power from grids in substations.  While two of the three turbines stopped functioning from 2012, the last one stopped in October 2013.

According to BPC’s senior manager in Bumthang, Gyeltshen, aging of machines and wear and tear forced the project to shut down completely.  He also said that the escalating maintenance costs incurred in the process of repair also contributed to its closure.

“Until 2013, it was run with repeated maintenance works but after its cost shot up exorbitantly, it was recommended for overhaul of the critical opertional machines,” Gyeltshen said.

According to BPC, the major overhaul of the operational machines, like turbine, flywheel and generators, was proposed following its rising maintenance costs.  Since Flovel limited, which constructed the project, no longer exists today, it also became a problem in terms of getting spare parts. “Even if the machines were fixed, they broke down again after a month,” Guru Tshering said.

Power official said the entire mechanical part is recommended for replacement.  As for the electrical component, only the control panels might need replacement for transformers are intact for reuse.

Its civil components, like the reservoir and infrastructure, except for some minor concrete work, the rest would need no major repair, he said.

In line with its recommendation, two feasibility studies were conducted by the central maintenance and training division.  The findings are yet to be released.  “Based on the findings, a contract document will be processed for major overhaul of the operational machines,” Gyeltshen said.

The project is targeting to generate at least 1.5MW of electricity.

“Once the project is commissioned, it’ll be a crucial back up service for Bumthang during power breakdown,” Guru Tshering said, adding the project would also be a source of revenue generation for BPC Bumthang.

By Tempa Wangdi, Chumey