Diggers complete 6 kilometer Cachí hydro tunnel

Workers Thursday broke through the last bit of a six kilometer tunnel that will feed water to a new turbine at the Cachí hydroelectric plant.

The event was ceremonial, and the remaining one meter of material had been left for the presence of  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad officials and for workers to show up in clean clothing for an official photo. They have been working around the clock for a year and a half from both sides to create the tunnel of nearly five meters in diameter, a bit more than 15 feet.

The tunnel runs parallel to an older one, and the water will come from the Río Reventazón during the dry season.  This is a $180 million project that includes installing the generator and the building to house it.

For the first time in Costa Rica, the workmen used

This is the business end of the rozadora or 'roadheader' that eats a path through rock.

This is the business end of the rozadora or ‘roadheader’ that eats a path through rock.

what they called a rozadora to dig part of the tunnel. This is called a “roadheader” in English and consists of a long steel arm with circular blades at the end to tear into the material.  These often are used in long-wall coal mining.

The Cachí generating facility in Cartago province has been operating since 1966, and the new setup will increase its generating capacity by 60 megawatts.

The upgrade should be in operation by 2015, officials said.

The electrical generating firm is rushing to keep up with demand and to reduce the use of expensive petroleum generation in the dry season.

Carlos Obregón, the executive president of the institute, spoke at a short ceremony and put in a plug for more hydro plants, including the controversial one known as El Diquís in southwestern Costa Rica.

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