Energy: The Chumey mini-hydropower plant in Bumthang will generate 1.737MW or 0.237 megawatts more of electricity than what it used to, once the ongoing rehabilitation work is complete.

The mini-hydropower plant generated 1.5 megawatts or 1,500 kilowatts before it broke down in 2013, following a major mechanical fault due to dilapidation of crucial equipment like turbines and a flywheel.

The plant will now generate 1.737MW according to officials. It is also expected to generate 5.25M units from 2.9-3.1M units in the past.

Rehabilitation works are in full swing. Workers are already repairing the channel, fore bay tank and spill ways which require concreting. Officials said 38 percent of the work has been completed.

Chumey Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) officials said they would be replacing all the turbines and other equipment.

Officials also said it was difficult to find spare parts for the old machines and they tended to break down just a month after being replaced. As a result, maintenance was becoming expensive.

Chumey BPC supervisor, Guru Tshering, said machines manufactured in Austria are going to be installed. “Of the three turbines, each turbine is expected to generate 579kw of electricity each,” he said.

An Austrian company, Erhard Automation was awarded the USD 2.43M contract. BPC is funding the project. The project should be completed by January 2018.

Also known as the Gyetsa mini-hydro project, it was constructed in 1988 to supply power to central Bhutan, particularly Bumthang. Certain parts of Trongsa also received power from the mini-hydro plant until recent years.

“Save for the control panels, the rest of the operational machines, like turbines and flywheel, are shut now,” 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.

In an earlier interview, BPC’s senior manager in Bumthang, Gyeltshen had also said that the age of the 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.

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

Nima Wangdi | Chumey