T. Ramakrishnan

The seven-and-a-half decade old power unit still functions generating about 60 megawatt

Station was declared a heritage site in 1997The PUSHEP generates 160 MU annually Station was declared a heritage site in 1997The PUSHEP generates 160 MU annually

SINGARA (THE NILGIRIS): Singara, a picturesque spot in the Nilgiris district and about 40 km from Udhagamandalam, presents a mix of old and new. Seven-decade-old Pykara power station hovers over the modern Pykara Ultimate Stage Hydro Electric Plant (PUSHEP).

(The stations are named after the river Pykara, a tributary of the river Moyar).

One of the oldest plants in south India, the Pykara station still functions, generating about 60 megawatt. The first unit of 6.65 MW was commissioned in October 1932.

The former Chief Engineer of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, K.V. Rupchand, recalls that C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar followed up with the British regime in 1920s and 1930s for implementation of the Pykara project. A team of engineers led by H.G.Howard, a chief engineer in the then Electricity department, had executed the project.

In a phased manner, six more units were added over the next 20 years.

By the end of 1954, the total installed capacity went up to 70 MW.

In 2001, one unit was dismantled. In the last two decades, the plant, on an average, produced 315 million units annually. In the current financial year (till January end), it generated 226 MU. During 2002-05, a renovation and modernisation programme was carried out at a cost of about Rs. 21 crore.

The Pykara station, declared as a heritage plant in September 1997, triggered the establishment of more hydro stations in the state. Today, the Niligiris district itself boasts of hydro stations having an aggregate installed capacity of 837 MW. Five decades after establishment of the old plant, the EB authorities came up with a plan for the PUSHEP having three units of 50 MW each. The construction of an underground powerhouse, 17 tunnels and the hydraulic head of 1039 metres are the special features of the new plant. According to the EB, such a hydraulic head is the highest in Asia. The access point to the powerhouse is a 1.5-km-long tunnel.

In August 1994, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa laid the foundation for the new plant. Before the inauguration of the plant last year, the PUSHEP witnessed a row over the issue of environmental clearance for laying transmission lines. The issue was eventually resolved about a year ago and the work on transmission lines completed in three-four months.

On August 11 last year, two units of 50 MW were synchronised with the grid. Three weeks later, the other unit was also commissioned. On September 6, the Chief Minister formally dedicated the plant.

The cost of the PUSHEP was estimated at Rs. 383 crore, of which the Power Finance Corporation provided about Rs. 250 crore to the TNEB. The successful southwest and northeast monsoons of 2005 enabled higher production.

So far, the plant has generated about 160 MU against the original design of producing 219 MU annually. This also shows the efficiency of the units, a senior official says.