When ALPINE, one of the largest construction companies in Europe, took on the challenge of building one of the largest power stations in Europe, it needed the best equipment for the job, Volvo Construction Equipment.
Set in mountainous Devin in Bulgaria, the Tsankov Kamak hydroelectric power station project is finally nearing completion. Located on the Vacha River, one of the biggest in Bulgaria, there is great potential for hydro electricity and the project aim has been to build a dam, reservoir and power plant.
But it hasn't been easy, as head of machine engineering for ALPINE, Franz Fussi, explains: "When we started work on this project in 2004 I was confronted with a whole range of problems," he says. "The rock proved to be much harder than expected and after the first three years, the forecasts for the completion date seemed to be shifting further and further away."
But after forming contractual relations with the Austrian agents of Volvo Construction Equipment, Alpine bought a range of machines to help master the tough job: Volvo EC460 excavators, L180 wheel loaders and A35 articulated haulers. All machines have performed well but the haulers have been the star of the show. The A35 is able to carry a load of 37 tons over gradients of more than 40 percent and no other manufacturer can match it for reliability, performance and cost effectiveness.
"When we had to drive the centre-pivot steered haulers over extremely steep ground under full load, we quickly noticed significant differences," says Franz. "Volvo haulers set the standard in this machine category. For me, they are the most reliable machines and it's really worthwhile working with them."
And the machines have created an engineering masterpiece. Roughly 530,000m³ of concrete has been used to craft the huge arched dam, in front of the power station, at an impressive height of 131m and width of 27m. A further 40,000m³ of concrete has been used for slope reinforcements in the 22 km long reservoir. Both are required because the power station will discharge water at times of peak electricity demand - generally in the morning and evening.
Over 1,500 workers have been involved in the project - machine operators have worked over 300 machines day in, day out, and a team of highly qualified mechanics have serviced and repaired the machines onsite.
"As technical director I have to ensure that our machines operate at maximum potential and standstill times are minimised. It is very expensive to have a large machine standing still for a week," says Franz. "So we have a large repair workshop onsite with first-class experts working on repair and service."
Bulgarian company, Sigma, one of the Volvo Construction Equipment's dealers, has helped the process to run smoothly by supplying ALPINE with spare parts for the Volvo machines quickly and efficiently.
Before the power station can go into operation, the reservoir behind the newly built dam will have to be filled. It will take the Vacha River three and a half months to do this, starting from June 2010. Once in operation, the power station will generate 188 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year.
ALPINE is currently tendering for another power station group on the Gorna Arda River. "It would be great if we could win this order," says Franz, "Because we will use all of our experience from this project - and that will definitely include Volvo machinery."
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