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11 October 2009

Lao’s largest dam to open early 2010

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Laos's largest infrastructure project, the Nam Theun 2 hydropower facility, will begin commercial operation later than planned, the power company was quoted by AFP as saying Friday.

Nam Theun 2 had expected to begin selling electricity to Thailand on December 15 but the date has been pushed back to early next year, it said.

"We hope it will be early in the first quarter but subject to further testing it could stretch to the end of the first quarter," Aiden Glendinning, communications manager for Nam Theun 2 Power Company, told AFP from Laos.

Testing of the turbines that will generate the electricity began in June and has revealed some technical problems, the company said in a statement.

"Specifically, the turbines are not operating at peak efficiency in the mid-power range," it said.

Deferring the opening date will give the head contractor, Electricite de France, more time to adapt the turbines "to ensure reliable and stable electricity output," the power company said.

Such engineering problems are not unusual for hydropower turbines, Jean Pierre Katz, the power company's chief executive officer, said in the statement.

About 95 percent of production will be sold to Thailand, earning Laos revenues estimated at almost two billion dollars over 25 years, which the communist country pledged to spend on poverty reduction.

After years of opposition from environmentalists, work on the 1.45-billion-dollar Lao-French-Thai project began in November 2005. It will have a generating capacity of 1,070 megawatts. The project is backed by the World Bank.


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