Conceived much earlier, the work on the Karnah project (two units of 1 MW each) started in 1985 and was ready in 1991. A 1.5-km canal taps 250 of the average 350 cusecs discharge of the Qazinag nalla – coming from part of the Shamasbari range that is on the other side of the LoC, to feed the two units from a 36 meter head. Between 1991 and 2011, it has generated 607.83 lakh units of energy.
Barely a year in operation, a flood devastated the project in September 1992. The rivulet has a flood discharge of 83000 cusecs as it drains a vast mountain terrain. Water entered the project through tail race, submerging the machinery with silt, sand and boulders.
The plant was back into operation in 1993 and run uninterrupted until it suffered extensive damage in an earthquake on October 8, 2005. Desperate to restore it, the PDC sent NHPC experts to Karnah to seek an opinion. Both the units resumed operations on October 28, 2007 after infusion of around four crore rupees capital.
After three years, massive rains triggered floods that severely impacted the power station on July 30, 2010. The floods submerged the machine hall and deposited more than three feet of silt there. Machine’s control, protection, metering and annunciation circuits suffered total damage as flood waters could not be cleared from the hall for 20 days. Engineers restored Unit-II on January 5, 2011 and the Unit-I on May 22, 2011. The systems were run in isolation. Later while one unit was renovated departmentally another was renovated through a local firm.
Right now, PDC is working on a renovation, modernization and up-rating plan for the project that may cost more than Rs 70 crore. But the plan would fetch 12 MW of energy which is more than peak demand of the Karnah belt. The blueprint of the plan suggests improving the capacity of the canal to 300 cusecs and taking the power house downstream where it gets a better gradient – 98 meters for its penstock – that will spin four machines of 3 MW each. The new site for power house is Khudrie which is 1.5 kms from its present location at Pringla. “The forebay shall remain the same and the penstock will be extended and bifurcated twice to have four inlets for four machines,” Junaid Ahmad, an engineer associated with the project said. “The new location increases the gross head from 37 m to 103m.” Once taken up, it will take three years for commissioning. Karnah is linked to Kupwara grid by a 33-Kv line that is perhaps the only high altitude transmission line as it passes through more than 10,000 feet Sadhana Pass.
SERC has put the project cost at Rs 15.85 crores and its tariff at Rs 2.91 per unit. The project generated 18.98 lakh units in 2010-11 and 31.1 lakh units in 2011-12.