Mini-hydropower plant; a step to solving Ghana’s green energy crisis, promoting tourism
The completion of construction works on a 45-kW mini-hydropower plant in Alavanyo Abehenease, a community in the Hohoe Municipality in the Volta region could be the way forward for partly solving the country’s energy crisis while promoting tourism.
The plant, Tsatsadu Hydropower, is a run of the river scheme without the creation of a reservoir and consists of a concrete diversion weir, an intake structure, diversion channel, a forebay, steel penstocks, a powerhouse (to house turbines and the generator) and transmission network to evacuate power on to the distribution grid.
Headworks and powerhouse are situated on the right bank of the river with an eight-metre-long concrete weir that diverts part of the river, which flows through an intake channel into the diversion channel.
Diverted water is then transported through the diversion channel into a forebay tank and then goes through a 300mm diameter penstock to the base of the hill where the powerhouse is located.
The water drives the turbine and escapes through the tailrace channel and finally discharges back into the downstream of the waterfall.
According to research, the world’s first hydroelectric project was used to power a single lamp in the Crag side country house in Northumberland, England, in 1878. Four years later, the first plant to serve a system of private and commercial customers was opened in Wisconsin, USA, and within a decade, hundreds of hydropower plants were in operation.
In North America, hydropower plants were installed at Grand Rapids, Michigan (1880), Ottawa, Ontario (1881), Dolgeville, New York (1881), and Niagara Falls, New York (1881). They were used to supply mills and light some local buildings.
By the turn of the century, the technology was spreading around the globe with Germany producing the first three-phase hydro-electric system in 1891, and Australia launching the first publicly owned plant in the Southern Hemisphere in 1895. In 1895, the world’s largest hydroelectric development of the time, the Edward Dean Adams Power Plant, was created at Niagara Falls.
By 1900, hundreds of small hydropower plants were in operation as the emerging technology spread across the world. In China, in 1905, a hydroelectric station was built on the Xindian creek near Taipei, with an installed capacity of 500 kW.
The Ministry of Energy in 2005 entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Development Organization (UNIDO) and International Network on Small Hydro Power (INSHP) to undertake studies to develop small hydropower potentials in the country.
Tsatsadu Waterfalls located in Alavanyo Abehenease in the Hohoe Municipality was selected to be developed as a pilot project.
The Danish and Chinese Government through the Renewable Energy Technology Transfer Project (UNIDO RETT) donated a 45kW capacity Generated and associated electromechanical equipment for the project.
The Ministry of Energy in 2016 appointed the Bui Power Authority (BPA) to develop the Tsatsadu Mini Hydro Project. The project was designed as a 45kW capacity plant with the possibility of adding another 45-kw capacity turbine.
The BPA then reviewed all available information on the project by undertaking several feasibility studies of the site, conducting detailed topographical surveys and completed design drawings for the civil structures. Engineers undertook to retrofit activities on the turbines.
The $400,000 project, expected to beef up power supply to the township, commenced in 2005 but stalled until its resumption in 2017.
Mr John-Peter Amewu, Minister of Energy toured and inspected the completed facility with the Bui Power Authority and noted that the Government of Ghana is committed to ensuring that more renewable sources of energy are added to the national energy mix to reduce over-reliance on the thermal energy sources as a main source of power.
He hinted of plans by the government to construct more mini-hydropower plants across the country to add-on power supply from the national grid since the country is migrating to mini-hydropower plants as a source of power supply for communities whenever the national grid goes off.
The Energy Minister said construction of more mini-hydropower plants will make renewable energy a ‘sizeable proportion’ of the country’s energy mix.
Mr Alex Okae-Acheampong, Design Manager at Bui Power Authority and Project Manager of the Tsatsadu Generating Station said the power generation from the plant is estimated at seven months in a year after, which the rest of the months would be used for maintenance works.
He said an additional 60kW capacity turbine is expected to be added to the plant to boost power generation.
Mr Okae-Acheampong says the plant is a run off-the-river scheme and that no water is stored, to provide for storage of power, adding that there is minimal environmental interference because it is a renewable project.
According to the Minister, Tsatsadu Hydro-Power site will serve as a learning hub for the training of technical students to be equipped with knowledge on the construction, operation and maintenance of Mini-Hydro Power Plants.
He explains that the operation of the plant will have minimal environmental interference since it is a renewable energy project and said: “It does not require water storage as it is a run-off the river scheme.”
Mr John Peter Amewu assured Rev. Fr. John Duah Prempeh, SVD, in-charge of the Foyer De Charite, a prayer and tourist centre in Alavanyo-Abehenease that the road to the centre would be fixed to attract more tourists.
Mr Okae-Acheampong said since the Tsatsadu waterfall is a tourist site, the construction of the mini hydropower is just about 30 per cent on the river, which still makes the waterfall a safe place for tourist attraction.
Togbe Komla Kunde V, Chief of Alavanyo-Abehenease, praised the government for the initiative and also asked that hostels be built to accommodate visiting students and other researchers.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo commissioned the project with assurance that the government would put up a research centre in the area to enhance learning and research in the country.
He expressed joy that the designing and building stages of the facility did not destroy the vegetation of the Area and said the roads have been taken into consideration and works would soon commence on them.
Mr Fred Oware, Chief Executive Officer of Bui Power Authority, disclosed that the Authority is looking out for other waterfalls in the region that may be viable for the construction of a hydropower plant.
In November this year, Mr Amewu cut sod for the construction of a Hall of Excellence in Alavanyo Abehenease to be constructed at an estimated cost of GH¢1 million to the specification of the Bui Power Authority on a two-acre land donated by the community.
He said the Hall when completed, would serve tourists and visitors to the area and provide opportunities for products from the area and the region as a whole.
There is a need for more hydropower plants to generate renewable energy, which had become a necessary addition to the country’s energy mix in the sector since it would be cheaper.
It will also play a key role in the implementation of Ghana’s international obligations under Sustainable Development Goal 7, on access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy, as well as Sustainable Development Goal 13, an urgent action to combat climate change.