Getting Power to the People -LEC Turns on Unit #2 to Meet Electricity Demand

MONROVIA : Amidst reports that the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) is embarking on power cuts to meet its domestic peak demand, especially against the backdrop that its main partner TRANSCO CLSG is experiencing challenges with power generation in the Ivory Coast which makes it impossible for Liberia to meets its power generation capacity of 74 MW, the Chief Executive Officer of the LEC, Mr. Monie R. Captan over the weekend commissioned Unit #2 following regular annual maintenance at the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant in Careysburg. According to Captan, turning on Unit #2 offsets some of the problems attached to the planned load shedding.

Leading an array of journalists on a guided tour of the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant over the weekend, CEO Captan said his institution had been challenged to provide electricity in accordance with its power generation quota due to the low water level in the reservoir, as well as maintenance work that had been ongoing on Unit #2 in the Hydro powerhouse.

“The water from the reservoir flows and goes under the powerhouse and turns the rotors on the power plant and it starts operating. For now, the reservoir is a bit dry, but when the full rainy season is here the whole area is going to be filled with water. By next month in June, you will see a big difference in this area. There will be a lot of water stored here that we can then use to run all of the turbines,” Mr. Captan informed the media as he took journalists on a tour of the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant facilities.

The tour included a thorough inspection of the outer perimeters of the Hydro, including the intake gate where the water enters and goes into the powerhouse generators; the powerhouse which includes the official control room for the substation; and the spillway gate, where water is allowed to escape to avoid flooding of the Hydro facilities.

At the powerhouse control room, the operations manager indicated that the team is tasked to take full control of all of the units and try as much as possible to meet the grid demand, noting that at the moment, there are two units in operation, owing to the volume of water that is coming in.

“The rest of the power in terms of demand from the grid is taken from the CLSG. We are receiving 34 megawatts from CLSG to support what our unit is putting out. One is in operation, and the rest of the load is coming from CLSG. Outgoing extensions are two towards Paynesville and two towards Bushrod,” the operations manager indicated.

According to CEO Captan, when electricity is produced at the power plant, it is handled at the level of the control room from where the team of engineers send the electricity to the various substations in town.

“They send basically to two substations. They send to Paynesville and Bushrod, and from there, we then send to the rest of the city and the country. Outside are the big transformers that we use here at the substation,” Mr. Captan stated confidently.

Empowering Liberians

One of the most noticeable attributes of the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant was the presence of Liberian engineers at all levels of operation.

Addressing the media, Mount Coffee substation operator James B. Kollie expressed his profound appreciation to the Government of Liberia for providing him the opportunity to serve his country.

“As a station operator, I receive the power from Mount Coffee Plant, that is 11,000 volts. When it comes here, I step it up to 66,000 volts and then transmit it to the substations in town, Paynesville and Bushrod. I did my training in Ghana, but since I joined the LEC, I have gone through so much training. I went to Egypt for another training, just for substations. I am proud to be contributing to my country, because as it is stated, it is not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” engineer Kollie said.

As for Eunice Siakeh, an electrical engineer assigned with the maintenance team, she is part of the crew that carries out annual maintenance at the substation.

“I have been with LEC for two years. I work with rural electrification, but I joined the substation maintenance team to do annual maintenance in the sub yard. I am happy with my job,” she said.

McArthur Parker, substation supervisor for Kakata substation for this part said he joined the maintenance team to acquire more knowledge on the grid.

Sylvester Kapawah is substation maintenance supervisor for substations in the entire country, and he couldn’t have found a better job.

“We are carrying on preventive maintenance to maintain our equipment here. We have the transformer here that steps up our 11kVA to 66kva that we transmit to the various substations, and we do some maintenance on the isolator and other equipment for them to function effectively. I have 13 people on the shift,” he said.

Commissioner Unit #2

Capping the entire tour was the commissioning of Unit #2 by CEO Captan himself, ably assisted by a female engineer who graduated from the University of Liberia, from the Engineering Department.

Using a computerized software dashboard, the young engineer drilled the media through the process that led to operationalizing Unit #2 on which maintenance works had just been completed.

Using the mouse, Captan carefully navigated through the series of instructional steps that led to the water from the reservoir entering the powerhouse generator and the activation of Unit #2, a process that saw the load from the CLSG lines gradually decreasing as the electricity supply from Mount Coffee Hydro increased.

“It means we will now pay less money to CLSG,” Monie Captan jokingly remarked as he electronically switched on Unit #2 amidst wide applause from his staff.

The tour ended with journalists being led towards the spillway gate that serves as leeway for water seepage from the reservoir.

“Here, we can close the gates and we open them. During the war, all the gates were closed, and nobody was here to open them. As a result, the water backed up, until the entire area we’re coming from was flooded. That’s how Mount Coffee Hydro Power Plant was damaged, because when the water gets to a certain level, you have to control that level by letting some out from here so that they don’t have flooding,” Mr. Captan stated.

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