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GRIDCo tower collapses after thieves vandalise bolts and nuts

BY: Della Russel Ocloo

A high-tension tower of the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) at the VALCO Smelter Transmission Site in Tema collapsed in the wee hours of yesterday after suspected thieves disengaged the bolts and nuts from the concrete platform on which the pylon was erected.

The act of vandalism perpetrated by the thieves is said to have led to the loss of 180 megawatts of power, creating power outages in parts of Tema, Accra, Kasoa and Kumasi.

The collapse of the tower, which carries 16,000 kilovolts, affected the integrity of another transmission line.

When GRIDCo officials visited the site yesterday, they found that the hacksaw blade apparently used by the perpetrators had been left on one of the concrete platforms, with some of the bolts hanging loosely at the base of the tower.

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Minister of Energy, Minority

The Minister of Energy, Mr John Peter Amewu, later toured the tracks and described the act as a sabotage calculated by some unscrupulous individuals to thwart the efforts of the government.

Speaking to some journalists on location, he said there were visible signs that some chemicals were used to corrode the bolts and nuts to make it easier for the towers to be hewed, adding that the security agencies had been tasked to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to book.

Mr Amewu also alleged that the act was possibly to score some political points by making the government unpopular, but gave an assurance that the government was focused and bent on improving the lots of the economy and Ghanaians and therefore would not be deterred by those acts of vandalism.

In a sharp, rebuttal, however, the Ranking Member of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Energy and Mines, Adam Mutawakilu, said the Minority in Parliament condemned the act as they considered the power transmission infrastructure important national assets that must be protected at every cost.

He said reading political motives into the incident was most unfortunate and the Minority wanted a thorough investigation, that should be broad enough to bring the culprits to book.

He said the felling of the tower required indepth knowledge and technical know-how which was not easy for lay persons to get around it.

Shock

The Director of Systems Operations at GRIDCo, Mr Mark Baah, expressed shock at the incident, and told the Daily Graphic at the scene in the Tema Power Enclave that operators working at the GRIDCo System Control Centre had observed strange occurrences of power transmission at midnight.

He said they observed that there were faults along the parallel lines that received power from Akosombo through the Volta Substation and southwards to the VALCO Smelter Transmission Site in Tema.

According to him, such transient faults were often normal, since “they sometimes go off momentarily and then come back on”.

However, Mr Baah said, the officials, in an attempt to restore the lines, realised that there was a surge (temporary spike in voltage), giving an indication of a permanent fault on the lines.

“The situation affected Karpowership and numerous consumers on the Power Distribution Service (PDS) network as a result of a considerable loss of power,” he said.

He said an initial assessment by the security and technical team at GRIDCo detected that the tower on the western side of the transmission lines had collapsed onto the parallel one on the eastern side.

“Our initial assessment revealed that it was an act of vandalism, possibly aimed at sabotaging the system, since the tower members and other relevant parts of the tower were still intact,” he said.

Contingency plan

Following the impact on power distribution, Mr Baah said, GRIDCo officials had isolated the two parallel transmission lines that evacuated power to the smelter and the new Tema substation so that power could be made available to consumers and for Karpowership to resume operations.

While officials had begun processes to replace the tower as a matter of urgency, he said, “possibilities are that some electricity load might have to be shed if the transmission system is stressed during peak period, else we may face a total system collapse”.

He said while efforts were being made to fix the problem, GRIDCo would beef up security on some of the sensitive lines to prevent a recurrence of such situations.

Resolution

Mr Baah said it might cost the company about $100,000 to replace the two transmission towers that were damaged.

He said the cost might likely go up if the technical assessment on the damage revealed that the integrity of the other towers along the Volta substation had been compromised.