Fresh hurdles for N4bn Katsina 10mw wind power …awaits Buhari’s nod for completion
Work remains stalled at the Katsina 10 megawatts wind power farm at Lamber Rimi in Rimi Local Government Area of the State, with a power ministry official saying a report awaits a presidential nod for its completion.
The N4.4 billion project was awarded to a French firm, Messrs Vergnet SA in 2010 and was scheduled for completion in 2012, but it has been suffering from many twists and turns that made the completion date unachievable and stalled progress.
Despite assurances of completion before May this year and eventual commissioning by June, 2015, work is yet to continue at the site four months behind the new target, as the Daily Trust, which visited the site last weekend observed.
Our reporter noticed that the wind turbines mounted had not exceeded four, as we reported in May, out of the slated 37 turbines to power the facility. The total turbines have a rated power of 275 kilowatts mounted at a height of 55 metres. The unmounted 33 turbines still lay decaying at the farm.
The project, which was initiated by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua when he was governor of Katsina State, was subsequently taken over by the Federal Government after he became president in 2007.
About three years ago, the lead contractor was abducted for a year when the project was about 90 per cent completion. Officials at the Federal Ministry of Power said the project would have been completed if the French engineer had not been kidnapped.
The then Minister of State for Power, Hon. Mohammed Wakil, in August, 2014, commissioned a technical audit of the plant, apparently seeking to commission the project by last year end. In a statement, he said, “The Katsina wind farm will soon be commissioned as the technical audit has commenced. Engineers were deployed to site a week ago.”
Wakil disclosed that construction had been transferred to a Nigerian firm trained in France after the original contractors wavered following the abduction of their lead engineer. Former president, Goodluck Jonathan also visited the site in April, 2014 and directed that the project be sped up.
Although it was not commissioned last December as planned, Wakil told Daily Trust that the trainees to audit the plant were rounding off their training in France. “It is a matter of test-running it for commission. That is part of the agreement with the technical contractors to train our local people to take over from them,” he had said.
The Permanent Secretary in the Power Ministry, Dr Godknows Igali told our reporter in May, 2015 that the success of the plant will determine if wind energy can work in the sahelian part of northern Nigeria.
“We joined another company with the original contractor since the first company refused to come back; so another company took over the job and it is about 95 per cent completed. What is left is just a few other details of electrical activities and testing.
“The engineers are on the fifth turbine now for the trial commissioning, out of the 37 wind turbines. The contractor said it should be ready in three weeks, probably by the end of June. The transmission alignment by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to strengthen the grid has also been completed.
“They are test-running it and power will be fed into the transmission line and then stepped down to be used around Katsina town. This is a pilot project and when we see that it is successful, we can then do more in the northern part where there is much wind,” Igali explained.
Worried about the silence that shredded the June target, Daily Trust checks showed that the change in administration dealt another setback to the project as the new government had to be briefed before taking up existing power projects.
A top official at the ministry who spoke in confidence said a letter awaits presidential nod for the plant
to be completed and put into use. He admitted that with what he called “years of the unfortunate neglect”, rodents have tampered with the cables, with oil leaks along with other defects. “After the man was rescued, the contractors now said they can continue with the project but they would have a technical audit of the project to correct the fault detected. They just concluded the technical audit.
“They also started the trial commissioning by mounting four or five turbines. The transmission section is already completed and the audit is ready. We have written to the Due Process for the certification and a letter has been written to the President for its continuation,” the official said.
He disclosed that the project would be put in the 2016 power budget for its completion even as its completion status remains at 95 per cent. “Every other equipment needed is there. The transformer that would be operated for it has come in and is already in Lagos,” he added.
Some of the wind turbines lying fallow after four were mounted from the 37 units.