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After 8 attempts, Katsina windmill defies commissioning

In March this year, the Federal Government said it was set to commission the 10 Megawatts wind farm sited at Lambar Rimi area of Katsina…

In March this year, the Federal Government said it was set to commission the 10 Megawatts wind farm sited at Lambar Rimi area of Katsina State.

The Minister of Power, Engr Sale Mamman, who announced the development via a tweet, said the project was set for commissioning later in the month.

The minister listed components of the project to include engineering, procurement, construction and installation of 37 Nos GEVMP (275KW) wind turbine generators, Step-up Transformers for each turbine 315KVA/33KV/400V, SCADA system (for data collection, performance monitoring, control and supervision).

Others he said were the installation of 2× 7.5MWA transformer and accessories as well as two years operation and maintenance spare parts.

“The Administration of President Buhari is committed to the completion of abandoned infrastructure projects.

“The 10MW Katsina wind farm project set for commissioning later this month has 37 up and functioning turbines, part of our effort towards investing in renewable energy,” he wrote.

The project signage

That brought the number of times fixed to commission the project to eight since its inception in 2005 when it was started by the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua as governor of the state, before it was taken over by the federal government in 2007.

Its commissioning was scheduled for 2012 but it never happened. It also got millions of naira in annual budgetary allocations from the government.

When contacted, the Special Assistant to Governor Masari on Power and Energy, Engr Mansur Musa Bakori, said the delay may not be unconnected with the fact that some aspects of the project are yet to be completed.

He said even though the project has been taken over by the federal government, he served as a consultant on the work and from what he knew, a substation was yet to be completed.

“It is essentially a federal government project now, so I am not in position to say what is exactly delaying the commissioning. But as a consultant who report to my principal, I know that there is a substation through which the power will be transmitted to the end users after it is evacuated from the mill, that substation has not been completed yet,” he said.

He also added that some of the turbines were vandalized, saying the federal government was probably trying to complete the project in its entirety before the commissioning.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the project, which if completed would generate 10MW of wind energy, has defied several completion dates and had thus far gulped over N4.4bn in the last 15 years since its conception.

Successive governments have been assigning dates for its completion but to no avail. Since 2005 when the government of Governor Umaru Musa Yar’adua started the project before it was taken over by the federal government in 2007, many dates have been fixed with no result.

The federal government awarded the project to a French firm – Messrs Vergnet SA, in 2010 at the cost of £18,500,000 plus N494m with a completion period of 24 months, that was by 2012.

In the 2017 budget, the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing allocated N904.5m for its completion. But from 2012 to date, more than six dates of completion were slated and all have come and gone.

The project suffered several sets back including the kidnapping of its engineer a French nationale, Mr Collomp Francis, vandalism from both human and rodents following the abandonment of the project, and government bureaucracy.

The project comprises the erection of 37 units of 275-kilowatt (kw) wind turbine generators mounted at a height of 55 meter on an inclinable tower to generate power from wind.

In March 2020, the Minister of Power, Engr. Sale Mamman, who inspected the plant at Lambar Rimi community also commissioned the transmission lines that will evacuate the generated power, an activity which gave locals hopes of its completion.

During the visit, the contractors told the minister that the Wind Farm could be completed and ready for commissioning within the next eight weeks.

The contractor and Managing Director of Crown Resources Development Company Limited (CREDCO), Barny Adeku Ojiah, said 31 turbines have been installed and they could generate 5.5MW at 65 percent wind speed efficiency.

He said plans were ongoing to install the remaining six turbines and that with strong wind speed, the plant can generate over 10MW.

Ojiah, who briefed the minister, said “I want to reassure you that this is an excellent project because those of us that have travelled to Europe know that the world is going green. It takes huge initial investment but cheaper on the long run.”

The project also comes with the construction of 23 kilometres of 33 kilovolt (kV) power transmission line from the 10MW Wind Farm. The line evacuates the generated power to the 132/33kV substation belonging to the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

From the substation, a 33kV transmission line spanning 17km was constructed to link up with the 132/33kV TCN substation at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University in Katsina along with the extension of the 33kV bus bar.

While the minister commissioned the line, the ministry officials said the transmission line was handled by Bramwell Electrical Nigeria Limited as a project for the Federal Ministry of Power under its Distribution Expansion Programme (DEP).

The minister in his address after the inspection and the line commissioning said, “We are here to inspect. We are going round to see what has been done because this project has been on ground for over seven years and we have to make sure that we complete this project.

“We are all here with the representative of the community, we have seen and we are impressed. We are also going to support the contractor to make sure the project is completed,” Mamman noted.

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Power, Magaji Aliyu, said the lawmakers knew little about the project earlier. “I am highly satisfied but before, I was not satisfied because I didn’t know what was going on and I needed more clarification.”

Shedding more lights on why the project was delayed, the contractor said the project had shut-down earlier due to lapses but was reopened for repairs two weeks ago.

After an expatriate for Vergnet, the French firm for the project was kidnapped, the project stalled. Vergnet later continued the project through a local partner, CREDCO, whose staff it trained in France. After a technical audit, CREDCO installed 15 wind turbines; however, in 2018, Vergnet left that arrangement. “I am aware that the minister (Fashola) raised this at the Federal Executive Council meeting for the termination of the contract with Vergnet and re-awarded to CREDCO, and that was done,” Ojiah explained.

By January 2019, CREDCO got five months to install the remaining 22 turbines but delayed due to challenges with parts’ importation.

“It was in August 2019 that we were able to do 31 turbines. The remaining six turbines require intense examination as they were badly vandalized and some equipment were carted away.”

The CREDCO boss advised that the project should be sustained. “Even if the 31 turbines are on and government does not ensure a proactive process to finishing it, we will come back to this same position.”

The minister, who also visited the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, assured him that the project was one of the most important projects in the country, saying the federal government would do everything possible to complete it in time.