Silt grinds country’s largest hydropower plant turbines to a halt – losses mount

Shimla: Forced shutdown of the country’s largest hydropower plant because of heavy silt in Satluj River in Himachal has not only caused a daily shortfall of 36 million units in the northern grid but the losses are mounting.

Incharge of the 1500 MW Jhakri plant, NC Bansal says the silt has been affecting generation for the past 15 days.

The river has been in spate and coinciding with the cloud burst in Leh, rains in the upper catchment of Satluj caused silt erosion to rise, which forced the management to shut down the plant so as to save expensive turbine machinery from corrosion.

The rains have been widespread over the northern region which has reduced demand for power from agricultural sector, as has the cooler temperatures cut back air-conditioning consumption, said a engineer connected with power supply management. “There is not much hue and cry about shut down of the Jhakri plant,” he said.

Suffering a daily revenue loss of about Rs 9 crore, Bansal says that generation cannot be resumed unless the silt levels at Natpha dam fall below 5000 parts per million (PPM).

The plant is operated by Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVN), a central government undertaking in which the state has a minority share.

Himachal which gets about one-third of the power generated from the plant as royalty, equity share and state of the region share, but sells it as merchant power or banks it with other states has taken the biggest hit from the forced closure.

Over the losses are considered to have crossed Rs 100 crore from the plant shutdown during peak generating season.

Other than the national capital region of Delhi, the plant meets peaking power requirements of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The states of Jammu & Kashmir and Uttrakhand also have a get a share of power generated from the plant as a state of the region.

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