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    Norochcholai Coal Power Plant plagued by problems since its inception

    May 26, 2023 - Colombo Gazette


      By Y P PrakashA generator unit at The Norochcholai Power Plant recently suffered another breakdown, as reported by the Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera, in a tweet. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) had informed him about the breakdown in unit 3 of the Norochcholaipower plant.

      Unit 3 was scheduled for major overhaul maintenance in April 2023.To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB will utilize its own Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants for electricity generation. The Minister assured that there would be no power cuts resulting from the breakdown.

      However, this is not the first instance of a breakdown at the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, as a malfunction in Generator One in August 2022 led to the extension of daily power cuts lasting three hours per day until late January 2023. The Norochcholai Coal Power Plant consists of three generators, each producing 300 MW, totalling 900 MW for the National Grid. A portion of the generated electricity is allocated for the plant's operations, with one generator contributing only 270 MW to the National Grid.

      The power station is located in Norocholai, Puttalam, on the southern end of the Kalpitiya Peninsula. Construction of the facility began on May 11, 2006, and the first unit was commissioned on March 22, 2011.The Norochcholai Coal Power Plant also known as the Lakvijaya Power Plant in Sri Lanka has become a white elephant due to numerous problems, rendering it expensive, wasteful, and ultimately useless.

      Since its inception, the plant has faced recurring issues, leading to extended shutdowns caused by technical, coal quality, and environmental problems.Furthermore, the power plant has imposed a substantial financial burden on Sri Lanka, with construction costs amounting to $2.5 billion and an estimated additional $1 billion for operation over the next 20 years.

      Environmental concerns surround the plant as it emits significant quantities of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, contributing to climate change and air pollution.Despite being intended as a major electricity source for the country, the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant has proven to be a major disappointment, plagued by financial challenges and environmental drawbacks.

      This white elephant poses a significant liability for Sri Lanka.One of the primary reasons behind the plant's persistent breakdowns is China's failure to train Sri Lankan staff in maintenance.

      Insufficient staffing and funding since its establishment have resulted in inadequate maintenance, exacerbating the plant's issues. Additionally, China retains control over the plant's operations, with Chinese engineers responsible for day-to-day management, raising concerns about China's exertion of influence over Sri Lanka.

      Efforts by the Sri Lankan overnment to renegotiate the agreement with China have been unsuccessful, leaving the country in a difficult position, heavily reliant on China for the operation of its largest power plant.While the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant plays a crucial role in Sri Lanka's electricity generation, its persistent problems have significantly disrupted the country's power supply.

      As a result, the government is currently exploring options to replace the plant with renewable energy sources, aiming to mitigate these challenges.China's failure to train Sri Lankan staff on the maintenance of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant can be attributed to several reasons.

      It is possible that China did not want to share its technology with Sri Lanka, aiming to maintain control over the plant's operation and keep Sri Lanka dependent on China. Another reason could be China's intention to profit from the maintenance of the plant.

      Regardless of the motive, China's failure to train Sri Lankan staff has had a detrimental impact on Sri Lanka. The Norochcholai Coal Power Plant has been plagued by problems since its establishment, leading the Sri Lankan government to explore alternatives for its replacement.

      The plant has experienced extended shutdowns due to various issues, the usage of low-quality coal imported from Indonesia and Russia, containing high levels of ash and sulfur, has resulted in boiler and turbine issues, leading to breakdowns.Insufficient maintenance has also contributed to the plant's frequent breakdowns.

      The plant has been understaffed and underfunded from the beginning, resulting in inadequate maintenance and exacerbating its problems.Despite being a significant electricity source for Sri Lanka, the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant's persistent problems have caused significant disruptions to the country's power supply.

      In addition, toxic acids evaporating from the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant have raised concerns about the well-being of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, a revered Bo tree located in Anuradhapura. This ancient tree holds immense religious significance as it is believed to be the oldest living tree with recorded history and is a revered pilgrimage site for Buddhists worldwide.

      Situated approximately 160 kilometers from Anuradhapura, the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant releases substantial amounts of sulphur dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. These pollutants can be carried by the wind and deposited onto the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, potentially causing harm to its leaves and roots and contributing to local air pollution.

      In 2019, a study conducted by the University of Peradeniya highlighted that sulphur dioxide levels in the air surrounding the Sri Maha Bodhi tree exceeded the recommended limits set by the World Health Organization. The study also found a correlation between sulphur dioxide levels and the number of dead leaves on the tree.

      The government of Sri Lanka has taken some measures to tackle the pollution issue arising from the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant. Installation of scrubbers on the plant's smokestacks has been initiated to minimize the emission of sulphur dioxide.

      However, these scrubbers are not entirely effective and come with significant operational costs.Furthermore, the government is contemplating the closure of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant and exploring options for transitioning to renewable energy sources.

      Nonetheless, this transition would entail considerable expenses and time.Meanwhile, immediate action is required to mitigate the pollution impact on the Sri Maha Bodhi tree from the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant.

      The overnment of Sri Lanka must take additional measures to reduce pollution from the plant and safeguard the well-being of this sacred tree.The Norochcholai Coal Power Plant has been a major disappointment for Sri Lanka.

      The plant was supposed to be a major source of electricity for the country, but it has been plagued by problems. The plant has been a financial burden, and it has been a major environmental concern.

      Some people argue that the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant is another one of China's useless projects in Sri Lanka. They point to the fact that the plant has been plagued by problems and that it has been a major financial burden for the country.

      They also argue that the plant is a major environmental concern.Others argue that the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant is a necessary project for Sri Lanka.

      They point to the fact that the plant provides a much-needed source of electricity for the country. They also argue that the plant is a major economic boost for the country.

      The debate over the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant is likely to continue for some time. It is a complex issue with no easy answers.


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