It was in May 1957 that the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the project that combined lignite mining and power generation.

The curtain will soon come down on the oldest power plant in Neyveli, the 600-MW Thermal Station (TS)-I.

The operations of the plant will gradually be phased out and a new station will be set up in three-four years.

Set up over 50 years ago, the plant has a chequered history. It was in May 1957 that the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the project that combined lignite mining and power generation.

Persuasive skills

Despite the Congress being in power at the Centre and in Tamil Nadu, leaders of the State had to make persistent efforts to have the project cleared by the Union government as there were questions about who should execute the project — the Centre or the State. The differences arose because of the perception among a section of policymakers in New Delhi that power generation, as a matter of principle, fell within the domain of the States. Eventually, the Union government agreed to implement the project, thanks to the persuasive skills of the State leaders, including the then Chief Minister, K. Kamaraj.

The first unit of 50 MW was commissioned in May 1962. In three years, five more units of 50 MW came into being. Between March 1967 and February 1970, three units of 100 MW went on stream. The station with a total capacity of 600 MW is essentially meant for the State, whose share is 475 MW. The entire cost of the plant was around Rs. 80 crore.

The units got a fresh lease of life in the 1990s from a life extension programme at a cost of Rs. 315 crore.

The Neyveli Lignite Corporation decided some years ago that a new power station should be set up in the place of the TS-I. The proposed plant, called the Neyveli New Thermal Power Plant (NNTPS), will have two units of 500 MW each, using lignite as fuel. It will be the largest such plant.

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