NEW DELHI: The transmission sector is set to see a ‘bird’ in action for the first time. Or more specifically, a heli-crane – also known as ‘aircrane’. Sterlite Power Grid Ventures, the transmission arm of NRI metals-to mining tycoon Anil Agarwals’ Vedanta group, will use these heavy lift machines to lay a Rs 3,000-crore transmission line linking Punjab with the Kashmir valley.
The company on Wednesday inked a deal with Portland, Oregon-based Erickson Inc for the heli-cranes. These heavy-lift machnes would put up 160 prefabricated towers and string them with high-voltage wires through dense forests and snowbound, avalanche-prone Himalayan ranges at heights ranging from 9,000-12,000 feet. TOI had first reported the possibility of such a deal back in October, 2015.
Usually, construction of towers at such locations or altitudes require deployment of a large number of mules and porters to haul components piece by piece and then putting them together. This is time-consuming and a nightmare for logistics managers since each step is dependent on weather and health condition of technical hands or porters.
The use of aircranes will help Sterlite Grid complete the 450-km link 10 months ahead of schedule. The machines are expected to be deployed in the next 3-4 months and open up new possibilities for transmission links proposed through difficult terrains in other states.
The heli-cranes are based on the US-made Sikorsky S-64 twin-engine heavy-lift helicopter. It is the civil version of the US Army’s CH-54. The latest versions of the heli-cranes have undergone numerous modifications since its first flight in 1962.
These choppers can also be fitted with huge water tanks and are well known for their role in dousing jungle fires in Australia and South Korea. One such chopper was used to lift the top section of the CN Tower into place in Toronto, Canada.
The state-run transmission utility had several years ago used choppers to clean the transmission network feeding power to Delhi after they tripped due to short-circuit caused by moisture from fog and pollutant deposits on insulators.
Sterlite Grid’s transmission link is a vital cog in the Centre’s plan to boost economic activities and spur development in J&K, which faces power shortage as it has to depend on a single link with the national grid. This line would provide the Kashmir valley an alternate power link with the national grid.
The Valley becomes particularly vulnerable during winters as heavy snowfall often snaps the sole link and it sometimes takes weeks to repair due to harsh weather and inhospitable terrain.