Birecik: on budget, on time and on line

22 January 2001

Two of the six 112 MWe Francis turbines of the 672 MWe Birecik hydro plant on the Euphrates in southern Turkey have started up on schedule, after a construction period of four years eight months. The remaining turbines will be connected to the grid over the next few months.

The Birecik hydroelectric power plant, about 30 km from the Syrian border, is claimed by its developers to be the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant built according to the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model. Under this model, the plant has been financed and built, and will be operated, by a private project company, Birecik AS. Some 43 per cent of this entity is held by the civil contractors, Philipp Holzmann of Germany, which is lead foreign investor in the project, Strabag of Austria and Gama of Turkey. Turkish utility TEAS holds 30 per cent.

The plant will be handed over to the Turkish government after an operating period of 15 years. The capital investment is refinanced with the power generated during the 15 year period. The Turkish government provides the site and acquires the project without having to contribute any capital of its own.

The DM 2 billion plant is part of a comprehensive plan to develop south east Anatolia. The power plant will generate 2.5 billion kWh per annum. The barrage is formed of a dam with a length of 2.5 km and a height of up to 62.5 m comprising embankments on the left and right sides with a total length of over 2 km with a 489 m wide concrete structure at the centre housing the hydroelectric power plant, the intake works and a spillway outlet structure. The effective retaining volume is over 620 million cubic meters. The watershed for the water collected in the reservoir covers an area of over 100 000 km2.

Statistics from the World Bank and elsewhere show that construction delays and cost overruns are frequent in hydroelectric power plants. But the Birecik project serves as a role model showing what can be achieved by private companies in the planning, financing, construction and operation of hydro projects. Construction was completed exactly on time and under budget.

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