Evolution

VSHydro traces its roots back to 1972, when Premasiri Sumanasekera, a graduate in Physical Science from the University of Colombo, who later became a renowned teacher and meteorologist, started Vidya Silpa in the backyard of his residence, essentially to manufacture laboratory science equipment which was previously imported at great cost from the developed Western countries.


Manufacture of these intricate measurement instruments were started with two artisans using basic equipment and technology. A special feature of these products however, were their extreme high quality – a feature that has characterized all VS Group operations hence and has become their watchword.


Soon the company grew from a backyard workshop to being the foremost supplier of laboratory equipment for all schools in Sri Lanka. The equipment manufactured at Vidya Silpa reached the highest quality standards and technological levels equivalent to their much more expensive European counterparts. The two man workshop in the Sumanasekera backyard grew to a large factory with 150 workers – replete with high quality plant and equipment required for manufacture of this equipment.


An essential feature of Vidya Silpa was how technological expertise was developed in-house – blending the time honored traditions of craftsmanship with new technology and tools. The resultant equipment was hard to beat for their proper mix of quality and price.



VS Hydro



In the early 1980’s Vidya Silpa developed a superior science teaching solution for underprivileged rural schools in Sri Lanka. Named the MINILAB – this marvelous innovation made available a purpose built science laboratory for middle school students at a fraction of the cost of an actual science laboratory. This enabled thousands of school children from the remotest villages in the country, to learn the wonders of science as much as their more affluent counterparts in the city.


The “MINILAB” reached thousands of schools in Sri Lanka within the space of a few years – and for his contribution to science education, Mr. Sumanasekera received a Presidential Award from the then President of Sri Lanka.


However, Mr. Sumanasekera was not content to rest on his laurels for long – with the advent of OPEC and the fuel crisis in the 1970’s, interest in renewable energy was emerging – and Vidya Silpa pioneered commercial interest in renewable energy in Sri Lanka. Studies were carried out in high altitude wind availability by Vidya Silpa together with a Dutch university and a funding agency, and the first proper wind measurement stations set up in 1988.



It was Vidya Silpa that first introduced commercial solar photovoltaic technology to Sri Lanka – and went on to power several households and schools in rural villages with solar energy after 1979.


Yet it was small hydro that was the renewable energy source most preferred by Vidya Silpa. Sumanasekera, being a hydro-meteorologist by profession, had intrinsic knowledge of the flow behaviour of the Sri Lankan rivers and streams, and the ability to convert this knowledge to analyse the power and energy potential existing in these rivers and streams, which flow in their multitudes from the extremely wet Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.


Of particular interest to Vidya Silpa were the more than 400 micro hydro plants that were set up by the British in the many tea and rubber plantations in Sri Lanka, many of them abandoned and in disuse. Vidya Silpa was instrumental in identifying the enormous cost savings that would result from rehabilitating these plants, and went about refurbishing and upgrading many of these plants.

In the process, they also identified several other projects that were developed completely anew by them. Several such plants with capacities ranging from 15 kW to 220 kW were developed during the years 1983 to 1991.


When the Sri Lankan utility, the Ceylon Electricity Board, announced that they would buy energy from independent power producers, it was Vidya Silpa that blazed the trail with the first privately owned hydropower project in the country.

The Dick Oya small hydropower project with an installed capacity of 1 MW ,set up with the financial assistance of the DFCC Bank, the premier development finance institute in Sri Lanka, utilizes the waters of a perennial stream in the hill station of Dick Oya.


The plant uses Chinese electro-mechanical equipment while the entire design, civil and mechanical construction and plant installation and commissioning was carried out by the skilled staff of Vidya Silpa. The plant has been performing excellently ever since, providing hassle free and clean electricity to the Sri Lankan national grid with consistency and reliability.



The success of the Dick Oya project paved the way for the birth of the vibrant private hydropower industry in Sri Lanka. Dozens of Sri Lankan firms took up the challenge of developing the hydro potential of the many streams, with the assistance of Sri Lankan engineers and technologists, who displayed an uncanny competence in designing and constructing these projects.

The Sri Lankans achieved the best cost ratios for these projects, and along with the quality of construction, became a model for many developing countries to follow in the development of renewable energy resources.


The VS Group, after setting up the subsidiary Hydrotech Lanka Dick Oya to own and operate the Dick Oya project, also set up a special subsidiary to design and build hydropower projects for themselves and for their clients.

This subsidiary is VSHydro, which has gone from strength to strength to become the preferred “one-stop-shop” for hydropower investors and developers in Sri Lanka.


VSHydro developed several of their own power stations through subsidiaries, in partnership with reputed companies in Sri Lanka and abroad. Some of these companies, Unit Energy, Blackwater and Saman Jala Viduli are now financially sound small hydropower companies contributing positively to group revenue.


Kadawala Small Hydropower

Project – Phase I


Company

Unit Energy Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.

Installed Capacity 5.0 MW


Kadawala Small Hydropower

Project – Phase II


Company

Saman Jala Viduli Company (Pvt) Ltd.

Installed Capacity 1.40 MW


Blackwater Small Hydropower Project


Company

Blackwater Power (Pvt) Ltd.

Installed Capacity 1.65 MW



VSHydro has become the partner of choice for hydro project development for several high profile investment companies in the sector such as South Asia Energy Management Systems Inc (SAEMS). from California, and Vallibel Holdings from Sri Lanka. In addition, VSHydro carries out development work related to hydro projects for several plantation companies.


Vallibel Holdings Ltd.


Way Ganga 9 MW

Erathne 10 MW

Barcaple-1 2.25 MW

Denavak Ganga 7.2 MW

Kiriwaneliya 4.65 MW


South Asia Energy Management Systems Inc.


Weli Oya 5.0 MW

Wewelwatte-1 4.5 MW

Wewelwatte-2 3.2 MW

Barcaple-2 4.5 MW

Kalupahana 2.5 MW

Pathaha 1.1 MW


Plantation Companies


Waverly 1.2 MW

Coolbawn-1 1.0 MW

Coolbawn-2 0.1 MW



VSHydro participated in the development of several of the most challenging of the small hydro projects in Sri Lanka – with varying levels of investment, technical features and socio-environmental aspects.


VSHydro has earned reputation as the most socially savvy of all the hydro developers in Sri Lanka, able to work  with the very sensitive communities in the project vicinity.



In 2007, VSHydro made a policy decision to take the winning experience overseas. Suitable projects were investigated in Vietnam, Indonesia, Nepal and Uganda, and preliminary works began in Uganda. Several feasibility studies were carried out before development began on the Mpanga Hydropower Project in Uganda for South Asia Energy Management Systems Inc (SAEMS) of USA.


This 18 MW project is now in an advanced state of construction, and VSHydro has commenced detailed investigations on several other projects, including feasibility studies on the Mt. Elgon projects, which are to be developed by VSHydro.