Engineering Problems Delay Hydropower Project in Laos

Laos’ 1,070-MW Nam Theun 2 hydropower project is nearly complete and set to begin commercial production in early 2010, according to the project’s owners.

Initially, the plant was expected to begin commercial operations by the end of this year. But engineering problems have delayed the project’s opening.

Officials tested the facility in June 2009, sending 60 MW to Thailand. (HydroWorld 7/8/09) The test run, however, revealed some problems, the Nam Theun 2 Power Co. said.

“Specifically, the turbines are not operating at peak efficiency in the mid-power range,” Nam Theun said.

As a result, commercial operations won’t be able to begin until the first quarter of 2010. This will give the head contractor, Electricite de France, more time to adapt the turbines to ensure reliable and stable electricity output, the company said.

“Such engineering problems are not unusual for turbines in hydropower facilities,” said Jean Pierre Katz, chief executive officer. “This is why the project has a meticulous testing protocol, to ensure safety and to identify operational complications before commercial operations can commence.”

The majority of the power will be exported to Thailand, earning the government of Laos US$80 million a year on average during the first 25 years of operation, Nam Theun said. The project is owned by private shareholders and the Laos government. Financing was provided by commercial lenders and international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. (From

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