Gilgel Gibe II, the hydro power plant which collapsed last February due to unforeseen accident only weeks after its official inauguration, is set to resume production in days. The maintenance work of the tunnel is already completed while the contractor, the same company which built the plant – the Italian-based Salini Construction – is undertaking clearance works, a senior official of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) told The Reporter.
“The maintenance work has been finalized and duly inspected by Electro Consult, another Italian company hired by EEPCo to supervise the work,” the official said anonymously because he is not entitled to provide information to the press. “What remains is a minor clearance work and the damn will be ready to resume production in days.”
After finalizing the maintenance, Salini conducted inspection works throughout the 26-km-long tunnel, according to the official. “Fortunately, it is now time for the annual inspection of the plant and the company has taken advantage of the maintenance work to do the inspection as well,” the official said.
The plant suspended power generation in February when boulders broke into the 26 km long tunnel. The incident occurred at a spot 8,980 meters from the water outlet and 1300 meters beneath the mountain. The stretch of the tunnel boulders smashed into 15- meters long. About 1.3 km of the tunnel was inaccessible because of the rocks that blocked passage and trapped the water.
Built with a price tag of 374 million euros and having an installed capacity of 420 MW, Gibe II is presently the country’s biggest power plant. The project channels the water discharged from the Gilgel Gibe I dam through a long tunnel and a steep drop directly to the valley of the Omo River.
The project had been delayed by more than two years. When finalized,it was commissioned in a high-profile inauguration in January attended by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Italian government officials.
Over a week from the inauguration, the project’s core component, the 26-km- long tunnel, collapsed shutting down operations for an extended period.