Hydroelectric plants have been in existence for several decades. It has long been recognised that while they are expensive to build the long-term benefits are worth the expenditure.
The concept is largely simple; a dam is built to trap water, usually in a valley where there is an existing lake and the water is allowed to flow through tunnels in the dam, to turn turbines and thus drive generators which produce power.
Guyana is seemingly on the verge of constructing such a project at Amaila Falls which will initially produce some 140 megawatt, according to Sithe Global, which is the project sponsor and an equity partner.
While the complete cost of the project has not been clearly outlined there have been several projections. President Bharrat Jagdeo announced that the cost of the Amaila Falls project is US$450 million. Other government sources have placed the cost at between US$500M and US$600M.Sithe Global will be investing some US$130M.
Experts on the building of such plants say the cost of hydropower construction per megawatt usually ranges between US$1M and US$1.5M.
Some of the most expensive power plants built or under construction include the Chinese Three Gorges power project with a capacity of 18,000 MW at $1.3m per megawatt.
The controversial Ilisu hydroelectric dam being built in Turkey will cost US$1.6B but will generate 1,200MW of electricity. This means that it is being constructed an average cost per megawatt of US$1.3m.
In Sudan, the 1,200MW Merowe Dam on the Blue Nile, commissioned in March last year, cost only $760M while the Gilgel Gibe II hydropower station in Ethiopia with a capacity of 420MW was built at a cost of US$600M.
Using the most conservative figure mentioned, namely $450M to build the Amaila Falls, it means that the current projection of the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Plant would be built at in excess of $2.5M a megawatt.
Many countries use large hydropower plants producing thousands of megawatts of electricity. Others have smaller plants similar to the one proposed in Guyana. One such plant in the United States of America was reported online on the website of the USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/environment/2008-10-27-alternative-energy-hydropower_N.htm.
On that website it was listed that “Pennsylvania Power and Light is spending US$350M to build a sleek new powerhouse at Holtwood, the first new hydroelectric plant in the East in two decades. It will house just two sets of larger turbines and generators but boast a capacity of 125 megawatts enough to light 100,000 homes, thanks to new, more efficient technology.”
If Guyana should use the rate calculated for the Holtwood project, the Amaila project should cost US$392M.
That same posting also listed that Power wholesaler AMP Ohio is adding 344 megawatts of hydropower to five locks and dams along the Ohio River. That US$500M project is slated to be completed in 2014.
In Turkey, there is the 180MW Karkamis dam and hydroelectric plant costing US$175 million. It is one of the smaller dams in the South Eastern Anatolian Project (GAP).
That information is posted at http://www.power-technology.com/projects/karkamis/
The Bujagali Project seems to be the exception. The project cost went up from the original budget of $500M to $860M, with indications that it may hit the $1b mark as a result of high interest rates and other factors. That project is being executed by Sithe Global.
Guyana has already commenced the preparatory work for the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project by awarding the US$15M road contract.
This contract awarded to Synergy Holdings entails the upgrade of approximately 85 kilometers of existing roadway and the design and construction of approximately 110 kilometers of new road.
The Contractor is also responsible for the construction and supply of a pontoon crossing on each bank of the Essequibo River at or in the vicinity of Butakari and on the Kuribrong River at or in the vicinity of Portage Falls in accordance with the specifications set out in Exhibit C. The pontoon must be capable of carrying 100 tonnes minimum.
The roads (whether new or existing) must also be capable to carry 20 tonnes/axle with the design maximum unit carrying capacity of 100 tonnes. All roads must also be stabilised and capped with a minimum six inches of laterite or similar materials compacted to 95 per cent proctor and suitable for use as the final wear surface.
In addition, the contract takes into account clearing the way for the installation of a 65-kilometre transmission line.
The Amaila site is located on the Kuribrong River, a tributary of the Potaro River in west central Guyana. The nearest point of access is the airstrip at Kaieteur Falls on the Potaro River, approximately 15 miles to the south.
An overland trail exists from Kaieteur to Amaila. Access is also provided overland by an all-weather road through Tumatumari on the Potaro River and on to Mahdia and Kangaruma.
River access along the Potaro-Kuribrong Rivers to the foot of Amaila Falls involves several portages around rapids and waterfalls. The road from Tumatumari was recently extended to Mahdia/Kangaruma that brings you closer to the site but approximately 30 miles of additional roads will need to be built to the top of Amaila Falls.
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