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Published On  Jan 29,  2012
   
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Ethiopia Hopes to Launch Construction of Three New Dams

The combined electric power output of the three dams to surpass the Grand Renaissance Dam

 

 

Senior ministers at the Ministry of Water & Energy (MoWE) are planning to carryout feasibility studies on three additional hydropower plants to be built in the basin of the Abay (Blue Nile) River, whose combined power generation capacity is projected to be larger than the Grand Renaissance Dam, Fortune learnt.

The cost of the feasibility studies on the technical, environmental, and social impacts of the dams will be covered with a 20.1 million-dollar grant secured from the government of Norway.

Asfaw Dingamo, former minister of Water Resources, had signed the grant agreement with Tom Odegaard, in November 2009.

Hydroelectric power plants planned in Mendaia, Beko Abo, and Kara Dodi, will collectively have 300MW more power than the Grand Renaissance Dam’s 5,250MW, a capacity the dam is believed to have when the Italian Salini Construttori completes construction in the second quarter of 2017. It will be the largest hydropower plant on the continent, with 15 generating units, each producing 350MW of electric power, a capacity currently generated by Koka and Tekeze dams combined.

The Grand Renaissance Dam also symbolises the nation’s determination to build the largest dam ever with its own resources, according to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

“The other dams we plan to build are less challenging than this,” he had said during his address at the launching of the project in Guba, Benishangul Gumuz Regional State, on April 2, 2011.

Indeed, he was referring to hydropower projects on the drawing board such as Beko Abo (2,100MW), located two kilometres upstream of Nekemt Bridge; Mendaia (2,000MW), located seven kilometres upstream on the Abay River and Dedessa River confluence; and Kara Dodi (1,600MW), located 70km upstream from the Renaissance Bridge.

However, the actual generation capacity of each dam will have to be determined after the feasibility studies are complete.

“Their capacities might increase or otherwise,” a hydraulic expert at the Ministry told Fortune.

Mendaia and Beko Abo projects are expected to be roller compacted concrete (RCC) dams, with 200 metre and 285 metre heights, making the latter the highest of its type in the world, each having an annual energy output of over 12,000 GWh a year.

The prefeasibility studies on Mendaia and Bako Abo projects were conducted by a consortium of consultants from Norway (Norplan and Norconsult), France (Electricite de France), and England (Scott Wilson), as well as Shebelle Consult Plc and Tropics Consulting Engineers, both domestic firms.

The report for the studies was approved by the Ministry after reviewing reports from the consultants, following consultation with the Ethiopian Electric Power Cooperation (EEPCo) and other relevant stake holders, sources disclosed.

The prefeasibility study includes hydrology studies, topography surveys, and geotechnical foundation and environmental studies. Aside from hydropower generation, the projects also aim to be multipurpose, providing improvements in flood control and conservation.

“The Ministry approved the projects, confirming their economic and technical viability, as eligible for a final feasibility study,” a senior official at the Ministry told Fortune.

Studies on economic and social viability were carried out by foreign consultant: Halcrow and Generation Integrated Rural Development (GIRD). It was during these studies that a helicopter crashed in the Abay Gorge, after it collided with a cable en route from Gojam to Wellega; no harm was reported.

The aforementioned consortium has been given the job of conducting the feasibility studies. They are allowed to take about six months to complete them, according to the senior official at the Ministry.

“If all of the studies are finalised within the year, as planned, construction will start within the coming few years,” he disclosed to Fortune.

The cost of building all three dams is yet to be determined. Nonetheless, it may reach close to 75 billion Br, considering the 13 million Br average cost per megawatt that the five most recent dams, including the Grand Renaissance Dam, have consumed in the past or are projected to.

“By the time we secure financing for their construction, these projects will be ready to be carried out within the five-year transformation period,” said the senior official at the Ministry.

The Ministry is also commissioning economic feasibility studies on the Tekeze River, for its second dam, 903km north of Addis Abeba, and on the Dedessa River, in Benishangul Gumuz, 386km from the capital. The two projects will have an estimated capacity of producing 450MW and 301MW, respectively.

The successful construction of these dams will increase the nation’s hydroelectric power plants to 17.

Currently, EEPCo generates 2,000MW of power, while an additional 8,000MW is expected in the coming three years; of which 97MW has already been added after Fincha Amertinesh Dam, consuming 137.8 million dollars, was inaugurated last month.

 

By MAHLET MESFIN
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

 
 
 

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