A $132 million expansion of the Cove Power Station to facilitate a 20-megawatt upgrade to Tobago’s existing 64-megawatt output, will meet demands of the island’s growing economy.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at a sod-turning ceremony for the plant on Monday, said that as the island’s economy expands, Government had to prioritise on what it spends money on.
“This plant is one of the answers… we recognised very early that as we take steps to expand Tobago’s economy, one of the things that would come with that is an increased consumption of electricity. At the current consumption levels, we have ups and downs, we have shortages so what we had to do is to ensure that we expand Tobago’s electricity generating capacity,” he said.
Rowley also looked at the cost ramifications in a constrained economic environment.
“It was easy for us to simply say, add more gas-driven power generation at Cove in Tobago but then when we took that decision… how do we pay for it. We took the decision at the Ministry of Finance in conjunction with T&TEC that we would find out how much it would cost…
“Today’s expansion in Tobago is at a cost of $132 million. Many people look at the budgetary allocation for Tobago and say, ‘oh that is not enough for Tobago’ but most often they do not recognise that there are additional expenses incurred for Tobago in other parts of the national expenditure.
“When we decided to put this plant here for the expansion of Tobago’s needs, we immediately took a decision to engage in $132 million further expense other than what you would have heard, but we couldn’t fund it immediately in one go, so (in) last year’s allocation we made provision for half of that money and T&TEC got that half last year. This year, the other half was allocated in this budget, so this $132 million is funded to proceed with this project over a two-year planning,” he said.
Work on the project is expected to be completed in eight months.
Explaining the upgrade, Project Director of LS Energia, German Valderrama, the company responsible for the upgrade, a 20-megawatt addition of power equals to of 25 percent of the total power generation now available on the island, enough to feed some 7,000 homes..
“This means that more industrial plants and tourist facilities will be able to be installed in the near future and the T&TEC will have the capacity to meet the load demand,” said Valderrama.
He said the upgrade would see installation of a new natural gas-fired gas turbine generator, LM2500, and ancillary infrastructure.
“This turbine is the same engine used by the Boeing 747 and Airbus A300 commercial airplanes, among others. Their reliability record over millions of flying hours exceeds 99 percent. Thousands of these engines have been manufactured, which guarantees high reliability and availability of the unit and an economical spare parts supply,” he said.
Valderrama said life expectancy of the turbine engine was more than 20 years and like an aircraft engine, could be updated and recycled almost indefinitely.
“This plant will be a high-tech, state of the art plant that we are very pleased to accomplish,” he said.
Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Company (T&TEC) Keith Sirju, in remarks at the event, acknowledged the economic constraints but said expansion was to deal with deficiencies in the existing configuration and to improve the long term reliability of the electricity supply in Tobago.
“This project is necessary for maintaining the reliability of supply to our customers resident in Tobago, for those who visit and do business here, as well as for economic growth.
“T&TEC, like the rest of the country is challenged to operate within financial constraints. However, capital investment in projects like this one is necessary to ensure that the Commission honours its obligation to provide a reliable supply of electricity to its customers,” he said, adding that efforts to minimise outages through preventative maintenance and upgrades to the grid remained an essential area of focus.
Sirju said while the existing generation capacity may appear adequate to meet current demand of 56 megawatts, several factors prompted the expansion.
“This include enhanced redundancy, diversification of the generation fleet, a de-rated 40-year-old cable capable of transmitting only 15 megawatts from Trinidad, two aged generators in Scarborough capable of generating only eight megawatts in standby mode and very importantly, the need for downtime to effect essential repairs and overhauls at Cove. “Moreover, we anticipate increased load growth from planned large scale development projects and must cater for those needs. “This new generator therefore forestalls any deficit in generation caused by any challenges with the existing infrastructure. This electricity generation expansion will benefit almost 28,000 customers in Tobago,” he said.