By Leonard Gildarie
The 150-megawatt hydro-power project at Amaila Falls is moving full steam ahead, Government says, with advertisements expected shortly in the newspapers inviting contractors to tender for the construction of access roads to the site.
According to Head of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, the US$500M project is on schedule for mid-next year.
The project, likely to be Guyana’s biggest one to date, has already attracted interest from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and a Chinese bank who have indicated the possibility of financing it.
Speaking from his Kingston office, Brassington, a key figure in putting together the deal, said that the laterite roads to the site would have to be built specifically to accommodate the weight of heavy equipment to be used in the construction phase.
While there are a number of existing roads, new ones will have to be built and existing ones will have to be upgraded.
Government had advertised for tenders for the hydro-project last year but the five bids that came in were found to be too high and the proposals were renegotiated.
Government is banking on the multi-million-dollar project to significantly bring down electricity costs in Guyana as the annual fuel import bill stands at US$350M annually.
The IDB had arranged a meeting of financiers in Washington recently, and President Bharrat Jagdeo had told reporters that the meeting went well and the project seems on track for a mid-2010 start.
He said the equity partner, Sithe Global Power, has already committed its share of US$130 million in the project and the government has set aside over US$20 million to undertake preparatory works, such as access roads to the site.
The project includes a 300 km transmission line to the substation near Georgetown, as well as a newly built and upgraded access road. The project has a valid Environmental Impact Study and has obtained several of the required government approvals.
All of the energy generated by the project will be bought by the government-owned utility, Guyana Power and Light, through a long term Power Purchase Agreement, as well as an “Assignment of Receivables Agreement”.
Sithe Global Power, LLC, based in New York, is an international development company involved in the construction, acquisition and operation of electric power generation facilities.
The company began as Sithe Energies Inc. in 1968 and has since become one of the largest power producers in the United States.
Sithe has developed over 50 power plant projects in nine countries with a capital investment of over US$5B. The company is currently developing the 250MW Bujagali Hydropower Project at Jinga, Uganda.
The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project is just part of a larger effort to revolutionise Guyana’s power generation infrastructure. Also ongoing is a US$39.6M project to upgrade the transmission and distribution (T&D) system, establishing a continuous network from Skeldon, Berbice to Parika, Essequibo, including the East and West Bank Demerara networks.
It will also see the construction of a state-of-the-art control centre at Sophia and will be capable of connecting to the Amalia Falls project once it is completed.
The Amaila Falls, located along the Kuribrong River, some 60 miles up the Potaro River in Region Eight was identified as a site with the capacity to produce some 140 megawatts of electricity which can satisfy 70 percent of Guyana’s electricity needs.
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