Third dam underway at Vaisigano River

The Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) is preparing to build a third hydropower dam along the Vaisigano River to maximise power generating flow. 

Feasibility and environmental impact studies have been completed for a third dam, in Tiapapata, and now E.P.C. is putting out requests for bids to supply materials and build the dam.

General Manager, Tologata Tile Tuimaleali'ifano, told the Samoa Observer on Monday that the mini-power plant will generate 700 kilowatts, or around two per cent of Samoa’s total demand. 

The Tiapapata plant will be the first power generating stop on the Vaisigano, before the flow reaches Alaoa’s 1000 kilowatt plant, then the two plants at Loto Samasoni of 900 kilowatts each, before finally reaching the ocean.

All told, when the third plant is finished, the river will be responsible for generating 3,500 kilowatts of power, as well as another 1,500 kilowatts from the offshoot stream at Fale o le Fee. 

“The idea is to use the water two or three times,” the general manager explained. 

“We can only do this if the streams are in line [with each other].”

Tologata said of all the renewable energy options available, hydropower has been called the most efficient and affordable option for Samoa. 

It costs just $0.12 to $0.15 sene per unit of power to operate and maintain, compared to $1 per unit generated by diesel. 

But with an uncertain climate future, Samoa is not investing too heavily and opting to build smaller dams, like the Tiapapata dam.

“What if there is no rain?”

While two per cent of the power demand may seem small, Tologata said the strategy is around building more small dams instead of less large ones. 

“We are confronting environmental issues like climate change. If we don’t have rain, then we don’t have water for power generation,” he said.

The planned Alaoa Multipurpose Dam downstream is supposed to try and contend with this issue, by building not only a dam but also water storage and improved flood management. 

The Tiapapata dam is expected to cost $5 million, including the supplies and construction for both the dam and the powerhouse on site to manage the power supply, but the cost may change once the tender process is over. 

Majority of the land affected is Government land, and Tologata said a smaller plot of land belonging to the Seumanatafa and Malietoa families has been talked over and they are supportive of the project, he said. 

He said he does not expect the project to have significant impact on the environment around the dam, but said he would try and share copies of the environmental impact report with the Samoa Observer.

The nvironmental impact study did not reveal any major issues with the project but that any that were raised will need to be strategized around and resolved.

Samoa has a lofty goal of being entirely powered by renewable energy by 2025. In late 2019, E.P.C. Project Manager Fonoti Perelini Perelini said the nation had hit the halfway mark.

Researcher and lecturer from the National University of Samoa, Tupuivao Vaiaso, believes Samoa will more likely hit 90 per cent by deadline, but will need an investment of more than T$643 million to get there.

“It is technically feasible to get close to 100 per cent renewable electricity using a combination of solar hydro, and stored solar energy,” said Mr. Vaiaso, with just 7.5 per cent of electricity produced by diesel. 

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