Hydropower dams run out of water on lack of rain

By Dac Thanh, Vo Thanh, Nguyen Hai   December 22, 2019 | 03:20 pm GMT+7

A heatwave and scanty rainfall have resulted in low water levels in hydropower dams in the central region, forcing several to shut down.

December is the time when the Bung River Hydropower Project No.4 in Quang Nam Province's Nam Giang District enters its peak power generation phase since it is the end of the rainy season and the reservoir has filled up.

But not this year. Two of its generators have been shut down for almost a month due to a lack of water.

The reservoir of Bung River hydropower project in Quang Nam Province is lacking 80 million cubic meters of water. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

The reservoir of Bung River hydropower project in Quang Nam Province is lacking 80 million cubic meters of water. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh.

Le Dinh Ban, director of the Bung River Hydropower Project, said, "In its five years of operation since January 2015, this is the first time the dam has faced such a serious water scarcity."

However, during the past month, though it was shut down, the plant had to be turned on for one or two hours every time the national power grid faced a shortage during peak hours, he added.

Ban blamed the lack of water on the heatwave, which hit Vietnam in the early and middle parts of this year -- and saw temperature records being broken on April 20 when the mercury hit 43.4 degrees Celsius, or 110 degrees Fahrenheit, in the central province of Ha Tinh -- and scanty rainfall.

Other hydropower dams in Quang Nam such as the Bung River Hydropower Project No.2 in Nam Giang District and A Vuong in Dong Giang District also face the same situation with their reservoirs only filled to 25-30 percent of their capacity.

The province Chairman, Le Tri Thanh, said hypropower plants had been told to halt operations until December 30 and instead prioritize water supply for daily needs and irrigation.

Quang Nam has also called on related agencies to take timely steps to stop saltwater from entering fields and store as much water as possible.

In neighboring Thua Thien Hue Province, prolonged drought has caused water in the Binh Dien Dam in Huong Tra Town to fall to a level where the bottom is almost visible. Many fish farmers have had to move their cages to the middle of the lake to save their fish.

Binh Dien has a capacity of over 423 million cubic meters of water, but the current storage is more than 300 million cubic meters short of that, official data shows.

This year the plant has generated only 102 million kWh of power compared to 180 million kWh last year.

Binh Dien dam in Thua Thien Hue Province is falling short of 300 millon cubic meters of water. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh

Binh Dien dam in Thua Thien Hue Province is falling short of 300 millon cubic meters of water. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh.

Phan Thanh Tung, office chief of the Steering Committee for Disaster Prevention and Search and Rescue of Thua Thien Hue, said Binh Dien is not the only dam without water in the province.

"The province has already made plans to cope with drought in 2020, and hydropower reservoirs will be responsible for providing water for irrigation when necessary."

In Nghe An Province, the water level in the Ban Ve Dam in Tuong Duong District is down to the lowest level ever since it was built nine years ago. It is at 193 meters, seven meters lower than the average of 200 meters.

The Ministry of Industry of Trade has said the electricity output by hydropower plants at the beginning of 2020 will be lower than the normal level by 4.55 billion kWh.

The country’s biggest hydropower plant, Hoa Binh, on the Da River in the northern province of Hoa Binh, has seen the water level in its dam drop to its lowest in 30 years at just above 100 meters.

"The water level is 3 billion cubic meters short of the normal level," Nguyen Dinh Thuy, a hydrography engineer at the power plant, said.

Hoa Binh hydropower project, the biggest of its kind if Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Hoa Binh hydropower project, the biggest of its kind in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Vu Duc Long, deputy director of the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, said the water shortage has affected all medium and large hydropower projects across the country, and water levels are only 65-85 percent of average.

Vietnam's rapid growth in recent years has made it hungry for energy.

Earlier this month it decided to import an additional 200 MW of electricity from Laos next year, taking the total to 1,200 MW, and with the country expected to suffer from power shortages from 2020, the import from Laos is expected to increase beyond 5,000 MW a year within the next decade.

The ministry has estimated a shortage of 3.7 billion kWh in 2021, which will peak at around 15 billion kWh in 2023 before halving each year and falling to 3.5 billion kWh in 2025.

 
 
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