The NTPC’s beleaguered Solapur power plant has run into troubled waters again. The Maharashtra Government is insisting that the company should use recycled water for the plant’s operation.

The move is being opposed by NTPC personnel, as they fear that recycled water could damage critical equipment. 

The 1,320-MW thermal power plant, which has been designed on advanced super critical technology, is under construction since March 2010, at Fatetawadi village near Solapur city in south-eastern Maharashtra. NTPC is investing about ₹9,500 crore in the plant. 

From day one, the project execution was an uphill task due to protests by villagers over land acquisition issues. Water to the plant would be supplied by a 120-km pipeline, which will lift water from the Ujani dam. Construction of the underground pipeline is an expensive affair and has already run into major right-of-way issues.      

Senior NTPC officials told BusinessLine on condition of anonymity that since Maharashtra is reeling under a severe drought the State Government has asked NTPC management to use recycled water, which would be sourced from a water recycling facility set up by local authorities in Solapur.

At the facility, sewage water from Solapur city would be recycled and sent to Fatetawadi. The water quality from such facilities is not up to the mark. It has dissolved solids, which can corrode critical equipment such as turbines, the officials said.

Water is the very life blood of a thermal power plant. It is the medium through which the energy is transferred from coal to a power generator. Such a plant requires a consistent stream of pollution-free high-quality water to operate effectively. Water only of a specific conductivity is used in the boiler. 

Conductivity is a measure of the concentration of dissolved solids in the water, changes in conductivity affects the transmission of electric current.

Impurities become more soluble at higher temperatures and pressures. NTPC officials fear that the impurities from recycled water could get deposited into the turbines.

These deposits can damage the turbine through physical impacts and by increasing the risk of corrosion under the deposit. A turbine is the very heart of a power plant, damaged turbines knockout plants for many months. 

The officials said that during the planning stage of the plant, the Maharashtra Government had committed fresh water.

An idea of using recycled water was also under consideration. But, later it was dropped. Now, the State Government is taking a U-turn on this critical issue.

The first unit of 660 MW, which is planned to be operational by February-March 2016, would get inordinately delayed. The whole project will suffer, escalating project cost and affecting the power tariff.

In spite of repeated efforts, the NTPC management was not available for comments.