The much talked about rehabilitation of the MT. Coffee Hydro Plant in White Plains seems is set to begin as the Government of Liberia, through its Mt. Coffee Project Implementation Unit (PIU) at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) sealed the deal that would see works set in motion at the plant.
The government through the LEC concluded and signed the contract between with Voith Hydro GmbH & Co. KG, a German company, for the supply and installation of the generating equipment for the Mt. Coffee hydro power plant.
The contract will see the securing of the generating equipment comprising of the four turbines and generators (each with a capacity of over 20 MW), generator circuit breakers, generator step-up transformers, gas-insulated switchgear, bridge crane, and associated equipment.
Welcoming news of the signing, Finance Minister Amara Konneh in a statement from Brussels said the signing of this agreement moves Liberia one step further to the restoration of the Mt. Coffee Hydropower Plant which will eventually lead to the production of cheap electricity in Liberia.
"Our energy strategy also includes the construction of thermal electricity plants. Over the past twenty months, we have mobilized and secured financing for the construction of three Heavy Fuel Oil Thermal Power Plants that will produce 38 megawatts, through financing from the Japanese, the World Bank and the Liberian government," he said.
"This would allow cost reduction of close to 50% of the USD 0.54 cents in the short term as we reconstruct Mt. Coffee. The concurrent approach is investing in rebuilding the Mt. Coffee Hydro power Plant that was completely destroyed during Liberia's protracted conflict, a project expected to generate close to 80 megawatts of power. With the hydro, we predict significant cost reduction."
Minister Konneh in his statement said the government has mobilized resources for transmission and distribution of power to Monrovia and the corridor from Paynesville to Kakata and it is currently currently concluding negotiations on financing for the Monrovia to Roberts International Airport and the Monrovia to Klay corridors transmission and distribution adding that with the hydro up and running there will be a considerable increase in employment numbers.
"Our analysis shows that all of these investments are not going to create jobs right away. We hope with the removal of energy as a binding constraint to growth and development in Liberia, industries can be attracted to invest and create opportunities of our people," he said.
"We intend to invest more in our local industries by linking our suppliers with markets and opening up the country. "
"This is our long term approach, while we work to gradually ease the demand on government for services and social protection."
The contract which was signed on October 18 and October 23, 2013, in Monrovia and Heidenheim, Germany, respectivelyLEC has effectively secured the major goal of the Hydro project, which is to achieve first power to Monrovia by December 15, 2015 according to the GoL.
"The first turbine providing commercial power by 2015, with the remaining turbines coming on line at two-month intervals thereafter during 2016.The turbines, generators, and auxiliary equipment are major components of the hydropower rehabilitation effort," states Minister Konneh.
Turbines are specialized equipment designed specifically for the Mt. Coffee plant, which require an engineering and manufacturing process of about two years' duration.
Voith was awarded the contract following an international competitive bidding process that began in October 2012 and included the world's best suppliers of hydro generating equipment.
The procurement process included an initial pre-qualification of bidders to select potential contractors based on technical experience and financial capacity.
Three firms selected during the pre-qualification process then submitted bid proposals and following careful evaluation of the technical and financial proposals;Voith's proposal was determined to provide the best value to the project.
The German company has installed more than 40,000 generators and turbines worldwide, which represents a fourth of the world's installed hydroelectric power. Voith Hydro offers a wide range of products starting from individual components to tailor-made services as well as from the construction of a new turn-key plant to the modernization of existing power stations.
In addition to traditional hydro power, Voith Hydro is also a leader in the development of new technologies for the generation of power from the oceans.
The LEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with VoithIn order to maintain the targeted project schedule on August 23, 2013, which enabled the company to begin the engineering of the turbines while contract negotiations were being carried out, according to Finance Minister Konneh.
Though it is not common practice the MoU afforded LEC and Voith sufficient time to ensure the details of the final contract were carefully considered without compromising the project schedule.
The LEC is said to have been very pleased with the commitment and confidence demonstrated by Voith Hydro in taking this extraordinary step.
The German power company's history in terms of doing business with Liberia as it relates to Mt. Coffee Hydropower Plant dates far back when Mt. Coffee dealt with Allis Chalmers which was the supplier of the first hydro-turbine units at Mt. Coffee.
In 1986, Voith Hydro took over Allis Chalmers from this company. Since then, the company, based in New York, Pennsylvania, USA, is known by the name Voith Hydro Ltd.
Work on the Mt. Coffee Hydropower Rehabilitation Project began in May 2012 with the establishment of the PIU at LEC.To date, the PIU has completed the high-level planning for the project, and in April 2013 contracted Norplan/Fichtner JV, the Owner's Engineer, to carry out the detailed planning and procurement activities and to supervise construction.
Meanwhile, in addition to the generating equipment contract, tendering is underway for preparatory civil works and for the hydraulic steel works for the powerhouse. Tenders for the remaining civil works, the transmission lines and substations, and access road upgrades will be announced in the coming months. Visible work at the site is planned to start in January 2014 according to the Finance Minister.
The Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant located approximately 27 kilometers (km) northeast of Monrovia was originally designed as a run-of-river scheme. A dam and a 10-bay spillway structure with radial gates were located in the original river channel.
Inflows to the reservoir were diverted through a channel to the powerhouse located at a bend in the river. This arrangement, in combination with an excavated tailrace channel, allowed development of the maximum hydraulic head at the Mount Coffee site.
The intake structure included provision for six units, although the powerhouse was only constructed for four units. Aside from partial excavation for the extension of the powerhouse substructure, none of the other civil works for units 5 and 6 was completed.
The technical characteristics of the original four-unit hydropower plant were:
- Gross Head
- Unit Rated Flow
- Unit Rated Capacity Units 1 and 2
- Unit Rated Capacity Units 3 and 4
- Plant Rated Capacity
- Commissioning Year Units 1 and 2
- Commissioning Year Units 3 and 4
The original four units will be rehabilitated using the same type of turbine-a Francis turbine. The modernized turbine units will be reconnected to the grid with more than 20 megawatts each. In total these units will generate a much higher output than the previous machines-the power output per turbine will be raised by about one third.
During the period of civil unrest in Liberia, power generation at Mount Coffee had to be stopped and operation of the spillway gates was prevented by the hostilities. This resulted in surcharging of the reservoir until Forebay Dam No. 1 was breached in August 1990. Approximately 180 meters (m) of the 12.2 m high dam, which was founded on overburden, was eroded down to bedrock.
With the shut-down of generation, the powerhouse was vandalized and virtually stripped of power generation equipment, and much of the gate equipment. The powerhouse cladding was also removed. Stanley Consultants in a 2008 conducted major feasibility study, which determined that, while much of the electrical and mechanical equipment had either been removed or rendered inoperative, most of the civil works, with rehabilitation, could be reused.
It was also concluded that the forebay dam breach was reparable and that the breach did not result in irreparable damage to the adjacent concrete structures
Currently, the West African Power Pool, WAPP Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea (CLSG) transmission interconnection project is also under preparation. It consists of a new 225 kV transmission line connecting the power networks of the CLSG countries. The CLSG is scheduled to connect to the Liberia network in 2018.
Experts say the the Mount Coffee HPP which will be the largest generating facility in Liberia for years to come, will be heavily depended upon to have high reliability and to provide frequency and load control for LEC's system.
Liberia earlier in 2013 signed the Financing Agreement for the loan component amounting to US$65 million with an interest of 1.42% from the European Investment Bank bringing to conclusion the package for the completion of the Mount Coffee Hydro. The Minister Konnehthen announced that Liberia will begin work on the hydro which when completed in 2016 will produce about 80 MW of power.
The GoLsince 2005,has made several proposals to repair the facility and restore power, including a proposal by China, but the hydro still remained in a dilapidated condition as none was able to shoulder the cost or get a commitment from the country's international partners to rehabilitate the plant as Liberians continue to live in darkness.
Currently the skylines of Monrovia are pitch dark and visitors traveling to the country for the first time get christened on their first night driving through from the Roberts international airport into the reality of darkness.
The signing of the 50 Million Euros Pact (US$65million) for the rehabilitation of the hydro with the European Investment Bank in January 2013 represented by the head of the bank's West Africa, Sahel and Caribbean division, Mr. Gustaaf Heim was a giant step to seeing the hydro works back on course and many are patiently waiting to see Mt. Coffee up and running providing cheap and affordable power as promised by the GoL.