18 August 2012

Nigeria: 'States, Local Govts Can Generate Power From Dams'

Gusau, Sokoto, Katsina — As the nation grapples with unstable power supply, stakeholders have made a case for the use of dams in the generation of electricity in the community where they are located

All the four dams in Goronyo in Sokoto State, Bakalori in Zamfara State, Zobe and Jibia dams in Katsina State owned by the Federal Government and managed by the Sokoto-Rima River Basin Development Authority (SRRBDA) can be used to generate electricity for domestic and industrial purpose, Managing Director of the River Basin, Engineer Khalid Yusuf said.

Engineer Yusuf told Weekly Trust that though Goronyo, Zobe and Jibia Dams were not initially designed to generate electricity, they can however be redesigned to effectively generate power in addition to the flood control, regional water supply and irrigation farming they were originally designed for.

"Yes, hydro power is one of the other facilities we can provide there. It has not been installed, but it can be redesigned to incorporate it at Goronyo, Jibia and Zobe dams. Already, Bakalori dam has the facility but unfortunately it stopped functioning about two years after installation. That was in the 80s. However, government is interested in reviving the facility.

"We are testing the ground to see if the facility can be revived. Owing to the duration the facility has been out of service, some of the components needed to revive the hydro power turbines may no longer be available. The company that fabricated the turbines and the generators over 30 years ago may not be functional now. They are Italian companies. So, these are the things we have to review and rethink about," he said.

He said all the four functional dams under the agency in the three states are solid enough and have enough water to generate electricity enough to provide its host communities and adjoining local government areas. He said some corporate bodies and individuals are carrying out studies on Zobe Dam with a view to using it to generate power, but insist that due process must be applied.

Weekly Trust reports that the electricity generating process involves the use of water flowing downstream which creates kinetic energy. "A hydroelectric power plant converts this energy into electricity by forcing water, often held at a dam, through a hydraulic turbine that is connected to a generator. The water then exits the turbine and is returned to a stream or riverbed below the dam," according to an expert in the area Candice Gaukel Andrews.

A Kaduna-based industrialist Alhaji Hassan Kangiwa faulted the concentration of industries like the textiles in Kano and Kaduna rather than establishing them closer to where they can access most of the things they require to function. He noted that Kano and Kaduna that are hosting most of the industries are too big to provide conducive place for businesses such as textile.

"Most of the problems affective the smooth running of these textiles in particular is lack of electricity. Rather than one establishing a textile industry in such town and keep running the machines on diesel and using trucks to move cotton and other raw materials from the farms to the factories in the urban area is not economically good for business.

"When you locate such industries in the neighbourhood of a dam, two or more industries can collaborate to install turbines and generate as much as four mega watts of electricity that will be enough for the industries and their host communities. That way, the industries will have enough and constant power supply and at cheaper rate compared to using PHCN or generators.

"Similarly, they can as well establish farms and empower farmers to massively produce the needed raw materials under their very close observation within very close distance to the factory. That will also lead to the development of their host communities as the industries would be made to construct their staff quarters or hire houses for the staff in the host communities," he said.

Alhaji Hassan said states and local governments could establish rural electrification boards where they could use the Dams around them to generate power 24 hours daily for their communities that can cover three or more local government areas thereby relieving the national greed of excess load.

"The councils can use that as a means of generating good revenue that can be used for development. People do not really care about the source of the light provided it is constant and the charges are affordable. The charges must be affordable because you do not need diesel to generate power using the turbine and they do not pay for the water they use. Our local councils with Dams around them should start thinking of exploring the opportunity. So, also our corporate bodies and business minded individuals. The over reliance on PHCN is risky and uncivilized," he said.

Weekly Trust investigation around Bakalori Dam in Zamfara State revealed that when it was generating power through its turbines, it has the capacity of generating four mega watts of electricity on a 24-hour basis even when only five mega watts is needed to meet the electricity requirement of the three local government areas surrounding the dam.

A senior official in the Engineering Department of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in Gusau, the Zamfara state capital who confirmed that on condition of anonymity said, "the maximum electricity requirement of Talata Mafara, Maradun and Bakura local government areas is just five mega watts and we can get it from the dam. The place is not dead, it is viable if it is allocated to us (PHCN). What we need to do is to replace the obsolete equipment and connect it with the National Grid," he said.

He recalled that in 1996 when the Federal Government was looking at the viability of tapping electricity from dams in the country, he was assigned to do that of Bakalori Dam and that gave him the opportunity to know much about it, insisting that it is still viable and can be used to generate power.

"Our investigation at that time shows that the dam has the capacity of meeting the electricity need of the area, but when that government left, our report was abandoned. Nigeria is not serious in turning around the power sector," he said.

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