NEW DELHI (TIP): State-run NTPC has switched on an 800 MW hydel plant to join a select group of global peers who span the entire fuel chain — coal, gas, hydro power and renewables — for generating greener electricity.
Last week, the country’s largest fossil fuel-based generation utility quietly switched on the last of the four 200 MW units of its first hydel project in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh, roughly 145 km before the tourist destination of Manali.
The development marks fulfillment of a vision, the seeds of which were sown by then chairman C P Jain during early parts of the 2000-2002 period. The hydel foray is part of NTPC’s diversification plan to widen fuel base.
“The country’s abundant natural water resources provide the cheapest available fuel. We need to tap its potential… The hydel capacity would also help NTPC improve operational flexibility and optimize use of its generation infrastructure in accordance with demand, saving resources. All these will be crucial for corporate health once power sector reforms are completed and market mechanisms are in place,” Jain had said. Those words sound almost prophetic today, given the situation being faced by gas-fired power stations as the high cost of imported fuel have put them beyond the reach of consumers in the absence of cheaper domestic fuel.
The Koldam project on Sutlej will provide peaking capacity to the northern grid and annually generate 3,054 GWh electricity at 90% capacity. Besides cheap electricity, the project is expected to enhance the life of Bhakra reservoir considerably by trapping the sediments of Sutlej in Koldam. But the going has not been easy. The project encountered several challenges during its construction due to geological surprises and environmental obstacles. But present chairman Arup Roy Choudhury held his team steady on course and NTPC finally managed to start filling up the reservoir in December 2013.