In September 2021, the Chandauti station was dedicated to the nation as part of the Bharat ka Amrit Mahotsav. The POWERGRID Mithilanchal Transmission Limited (PMTL) substation project, built by Linxon, is located in the state of Bihar in India’s eastern region, a first of the series of transmission network expansions to India’s interior village areas of Bihar.
Bihar, a state with 104 million people, is India’s third-most populous state, and with a peak power demand that has risen 94% in about seven years, the second-fastest growing economy.
Demand for electricity in Bihar had touched 3717 MW under unrestricted condition in fiscal years (FY) 2016/17 and was anticipated to go up to 8774 megawatts (MW) by 2018-19. Separation of agricultural and non-agricultural feeders paved the way to ensure optimal load management and quality power. Bihar’s demand was expected to reach about 11000 MW by the end of the 13th plan in India’s Eastern Region Strengthening Scheme.
Accordingly, detailed load flow studies were carried out to evolve transmission system requirements. The studies, among other things, recommended establishment of two 400/220/132 kV substations in North Bihar at Sitamarhi and Saharsa and one 400/220/132 kV substation in South Bihar at Chandauti (Gaya) along with augmentation of 400/132 kV Motihari S/s of Essel Infra by 315 MVA in the ISTS network.
Laying the Foundation Stone
On Nov. 24, 2018, senior officials from the government of Bihar, the government of India and area citizens attended the laying of the “Foundation Stone” for construction of the POWERGRID Chandauti Substation in Bihar, India. The stone was laid by Shri Raj Kumar Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, New and Renewable Energy.
The 400/220/132 kV Substation awarded to Linxon, headquarter in Baden, Switzerland, is part of a network expansion comprising three more substations and transmission lines also being constructed by PMTL. PMTL is a 100% subsidiary of PowerGrid Corporation of India Ltd. The largest state-owned transmission utility of India.
Construction went as planned during the first phases of construction at the Chandauti job site. Ground work was completed, tower foundations and cable trenches were poured and the construction of the control room building was on track for completions. Even during the early monsoon season. A monsoon in the state of Bihar is common and traditionally run from June to September. The construction site is located in a place where soil is of black cotton in nature. In the period of monsoon ground becomes non motorable.
The transformers and other heavy equipment supplied by PMTL were expected to be delivered before monsoon, they reached the site during the rainy season.
October 2019’s rainfall was 37% above normal and India’s longest running monsoon in recorded history. In Chandauti, we faced similar challenge, but the customer entrusted us to steer the heavy equipment from the highways to the foundations inside the switchyard.
We took the challenge and within very short duration arranged a so called Portadeck, which was used to support transport of the heavy vehicles and 500MVA and 200MVA transformers even on slushy soil. Linxon’s innovative idea required laying 100-meters of the interlocking mats, which are rarely used in such projects. It was Linxon’s first time to use this much-appreciated Portadeck, designed to provide strong and dependable access roads & staging areas for equipment.
Then, on March 24th, 2020 the Government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown, limiting movement of the entire 1.38 billion people as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 100,000 new coronavirus cases were being confirmed each day. So, the project came to a halt. But amidst lockdown restrictions and resource scarcity, Linxon was determined to hold the ground. The team with the help of POWERGRID and local authority was allowed to restart the work gradually, maintaining the mandatory COVID-19 protocol throughout the remainder of construction. Implementing COVID19 norms in such an interior site in such short duration, even when worldwide all offices remained closed, was herculean task. Arranging PPE’s, COVID related materials were done even when India countrywide was experiencing scarcity of such items.
Acclimatization of people to this new normal required a paradigm shift in behavior. The team lead from the front setting examples, influencing each individual in the team, brought in an absolute charisma of discipline. Workers were tested daily for COVID-19 symptoms and washed/sanitized their hand periodically on the jobsite (Fig 3). Even equipment and vehicle entering the construction area were sanitized (Fig 4).
The practice of a new normal, continuous health monitoring, was challenged exponentially with resources/skillset scarcity, rising commodity prices, factories closed, delivery of material delayed, lack of transportation facilities and so on.
While fear persisted within each one, the team could ensure an environment safe and healthy for all to perform. All stakeholders regained confidence and aligned to achieve the goal of first charging by December 2, 2020 and subsequently entire station commissioning in stages by March 9th, 2021.