Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter
ENGINEERS have started synchronising various sub-systems at the Hwange Thermal Power Station Unit 7 plant, which is 97 percent complete and ready for commissioning in November, paving way for connection to the national grid.
The plant will start generating power on a trial run for some time until engineers are satisfied that it will not disturb the grid.
Unit 7 is a component of the US$1,4 billion Hwange Unit 7 and 8 expansion project whose construction began in August 2018 following a ground-breaking ceremony by President Mnangagwa.
Overall, both units are 93 percent complete, with Unit 8 set for commissioning early next year.
The project scope entails addition of the two units with a combined capacity of 600MW to be added to the national grid.
It is one of the flagship projects being implemented under the Second Republic in line with Vision 2030, which aims to transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy.
When fully commissioned, the project will help Zimbabwe tame electricity imports and ease power cuts, which will drive increased industrial production with guaranteed electricity, a key economic enabler and driver towards realisation of national goals in line with Vision 2030.
While the whole project missed timelines by almost a year due to the effects of Covid-19 which stopped operations for some time, project engineers yesterday said the targeted November commissioning will be met as most of the work has been done with focus now on trial runs and commissioning of various internal components.
However, the 300MW to be generated by Unit 7 will be fed into the grid in phases, project manager Engineer Forbes Chanakira said.
Updating Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo during a tour of the project yesterday, Eng Chanakira said: “By and large we are almost there in terms of completing the project. We are above 93 percent complete for both units and Unit 7 alone is at 97 percent despite the delays of more than a year largely because of Covid-19 and delays in payment.
“We are hoping that with the coming in of Unit 7 at the end of this year, we will be able to address power challenges.”
He said all the enabling projects such as the Deka water pipeline and transmission lines have made significant progress.
Eng Chanakira said synchronisation of the coal plant, ash plant, boiler, turbines and other components including the control room is underway.
He said the boiler, which is responsible for producing steam that is required to produce energy to turn the turbines that generate electricity will be lit up soon.
“When we finish the commissioning process of all the sub systems, we will then want to test how the unit will behave when all the systems have been brought together.
“So it is some readiness for us to be able to synchronise which we should be able to do before the end of November.
“We should be able to load and burn the coal and turn the generator and produce a little bit of power to see how it is performing. We will not at this stage synchronise so that we can supply power to the grid, but we will be optimising the system so that we are sure that the unit will be able to reliably supply power to the national grid.
“So, for now we are doing steam clearing for Unit 7 which is the last process before commissioning,” added Eng Chakanira.
Some sections of Unit 7 have been barricaded as testing of components has commenced and some areas are already live with electricity, while the control room is already being used to monitor and control operations.
The control tower is already running with about 9,6 cubic metres of water, which is equivalent to 200 by 200 litre-drums running through the fill material in the tower per second, according to engineers.
Minister Moyo said completion of the project is a testimony that the country will attain an upper middle income status before the targeted 2030.
“As Matabeleland North we are happy about this project which is expected to transform the nation’s power. This is one of the national flagship projects and will increase gross domestic product and better the lives of people through employment and power availability.
“We are excited that they have started testing the plant for commissioning in November. Although we are one year behind, we will beta the November target of commissioning Unit 7,” said Minister Moyo.
The project is a joint venture between Sino Hydro Mauritius and the Zimbabwe Power Company with through a company called Hwange Electricity Supply Company.
The project has employed 4 600 locals to date.