Canadian Consulting Engineer

Khudi Hydropower Project

October 1, 2008
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The building of a 4-MW hydroelectric power plant in the Nepali village of Khudi came about thanks to sustained efforts to pursue the project, and relationships forged with local partners. The persever...

The building of a 4-MW hydroelectric power plant in the Nepali village of Khudi came about thanks to sustained efforts to pursue the project, and relationships forged with local partners. The perseverance has paid off and the project is cited as a socially responsible development model. Khudi is the tale of building a better world.

Nepal is a country of 25 million inhabitants, but only 15% of them benefit from electricity. Despite having a hydroelectric potential of over 80,000 MW, Nepal has developed less than 1% of this potential. Most people live in rural areas and they mainly resort to burning wood and residue for power and heat, creating environmental problems of vast deforestation, pollution and health issues.

Towards the end of the 1990s, Quebec consulting engineers BPR (then GCSCP), a company that specializes in small and medium-sized hydropower projects, obtained a mandate in Nepal. Engineer Francois Vitez of BPR became consultant to Mr. Dikcontinued endra Kandel, head of the Lamjung Electricity Development company (LEDCO). LEDCO is a community-based developer of renewable energy with a socially responsible approach.

Vitez also acted as a consultant to the Minister of Water Resources and assisted her in elaborating a policy to include the private sector in the hydroelectricity production sector.

To design and build the Khudi plant, a consortium was created known as Khudi Hydropower Limited. It included LEDCO 15%; Butwal Power Company (BPC) (the Nepali leader in hydropower consulting engineering) 60%; and SCP Hydro International (SCPHI) 25%. SCPHI is a Canadian Hydro Developer created by BPR (then GCSCP). Khudi Hydropower Limited will operate the plant for 25 years.

To get the project off the ground, the consortium had to find additional financing, but Nepali bankers were skeptical of such projects as there was no previous similar experience. Most hydro developments in Nepal were done by foreign companies through the state-owned utility. These projects tended to leave very few benefits to the local communities and resulted in a very limited transfer of knowledge to Nepalese once the work was completed. However, eventually, five Nepali banks agreed to lend the rest of the start-up funds.

Construction in the mountains

From the start the challenge was to design, build and operate the power plant at the lowest possible cost without compromising performance. The dual relationship of being both colleagues and associated investors in the project united the participants behind these goals and allowed them to reach compromises.

The most complex aspects of the project were finding solutions to manage the river sedimentation, and to stabilize the riverbed and extract the rock. The initial design was changed and the intake was moved 140 metres upstream of the weir, and widened from 20 to 23 metres.

Another challenge was scaling down existing technology to be suitable for a small power plant. The design team adapted technologies from other sectors, including HYFRAN software from the National Institute of Scientific Research, and Canadian technology for the control systems. Inverted siphon technology was used.

Construction was originally scheduled to be completed in 2002. However, Nepal at that time was faced with a period of great political instability, culminating in 2001 with the Royal Family being assassinated.

Eventually the project was completed in 15 months by December 2006. This timeline is remarkable since the work was carried out in a mountainous region. No explosives could be used as strict restrictions were imposed during the political conflict.

The erected structure operates with a flow of 4.9 m3/second, generates 4 MW, and produces 24.3 GWh annually.

At present the project is supplying electricity to Khudi, as well as several other nearby towns and districts.

The plant’s profitability threshold must be reached in 10 years (15% of shareholders are small local investors). As a model the project is now hailed by various financial and government departments in Nepal and by the World Energy Council.

As well, BPR in cooperation with the Canadian International Development Agency, partner LEDCO, and a local non-profit organization, designed a social development plan. The plan covers various components including community development, health, education, finance and technology transfer. Results include the upgrading of 26 schools in the area and the establishing of micro credit groups, tradesmen training, and HIV education.

Name of project: Khudi Hydropower Project, Nepal

Award-winning firm: BPR, Montreal (Francois Vitez, P. Eng., Marie-France Houle, ing., Baburam Bhadaradwaj, ing., Ram Raj Sharma, Serge Proulx, P. Eng., Loic Petillon, ing., Suya Adhikari, ing., Jaques Gauthier, sr. tech., Alexandre Frigon, ing., Madhu Khania)

Role of award-winning firm: site identification, feasibility study, design in collaboration with BPC-Nepal, equity financing procurement, technical assistance, mitigation program planning and modelling

Owner: Khudi Hydro (BPC, SCPHI, LEDCO)

Other key players: BPC-Nepal (design), Groupe Conseil Lassal (penstock), Hydro Lab (model study), Himal Hydro (contractor), LEDCO (mitigation, field supervision), COPPADES (social integration/mobilization)


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