Adjaristsqali Georgia (AGL), a joint venture comprising Tata Power of India, Clean Energy Invest of Norway, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), announced on 30 March the start of commercial operation of the 178 MW Shuakhevi hydro project on the Adjaristsqali river, in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, southwestern Georgia.
The project was originally commissioned in late 2017, after receiving a transmission connection in July 2017. However, shortly after operations began, abnormalities were noticed, indicating blockages in certain sections of its systems of tunnels. Subsequently, a comprehensive investigation and remedial works programme were launched, which were completed in late 2019. The tunnels were filled again by January 2020 and commissioning trials began in February 2020. Operational Readiness certification was obtained in March 2020.
AGL is now planning to start the commissioning of the 9 MW Skhalta project, which is also part of the Shuakhevi scheme.
“The commercial operation of Shuakhevi is an important milestone for Tata Power and its partners,” Praveer Sinha, CEO and Managing Director of Tata Power, said on 30 March. “Shuakhevi represents the largest and most influential energy project to be implemented in the last 70 years. The success of the 178 MW Shuakhevi hydropower cascade is crucial for the integrity, security and independence of energy in Georgia”.
Shuakhevi is a pioneering project for Georgia in many ways. It is the largest hydro project to be developed in Georgia since its independence, and is also the first international cross-border limited recourse financed hydro project, as well as the first greenfield hydro scheme, to be certified by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change for carbon emission reductions in the country.
The project harnesses water diverted from the flows of the upper parts of the Adjaristskali, Skhalta and Chirukhistskali rivers towards two reservoirs. It involved the construction of two dams with reservoirs, the 52 m-high Didachara concrete dam and the 17 m-high Skhalta rockfill dam, and a 7 m-high weir, on the rivers Adjaristsqali, Skhalta and Chirukhistsqali, respectively.
A series of transfer and headrace tunnels, with a total length of 37 km, connect the reservoirs to the Shuakhevi powerhouse, which is just upstream of the confluence of the Adjaristskali and Chvanistskali rivers. The Shuakhevi plant is equipped with two turbines, and is designed to generate about 450 GWh/year under a gross head of 440 m. The Skhalta plant, at dam of the same name, will generate 28 GWh/year using the water transferred from the Chirukhistsqali, under a gross head of 110 m.
Both plants are of the run-of-river type, with Shuakhevi having a limited daily storage. Power generated by the plant will be sold primarily within Georgia, with a possibility to sell elsewhere during the summer months. The cost of the two plants and associated infrastructure is around US$ 500 million; the project debt is being financed by the IFC, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank.
Beyond helping to meet Georgia’s electricity demand during winter, reducing dependence on imported fuel and increasing renewable energy output, the project has also provided multiple benefits for the local economy. In addition to employing more than 1000 local people during the peak of the construction phase, AGL’s workforce for the operation phase comprises almost 90 per cent locals, including young Georgian engineers. Since the launch of the project, AGL has actively worked to improve the living conditions of the local population and to promote the region’s long-term development. As part of its corporate responsibility programme, the company initiated a set of CSR programmes to help the development of the Upper Adjara region. As part of this framework, AGL has supported more than 50 social projects in the areas of infrastructure, education and community development and has engaged more than 500 local residents during their implementation.