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Top Five
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Top 5 Energy projects in Africa
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Published on
22 January 2021
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Improving access to & reliability of energy on the continent is key to boosting Africa’s economy and standard of living but there are two major energy issues facing the continent. How to connect the 600 million people who currently don't have access to electricity, and how to keep the existing electricity running at adequate and sustainable levels without shortages and outages.

Countries and businesses have taken note, and many ambitious projects are underway to solve these critical issues and accelerate GDP.

Number 1: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

We start on the border of Ethiopia and Sudan to look at one of Africa's most significant infrastructure projects. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a $5 billion mega project in the works since 2011. After 44 months of construction, it opened in the mid-2020s, with the expectation to fill the reservoir with water over the next five to 15 years. 

The dam is the largest in Africa and the tenth largest dam in the world and will generate 6,450 megawatts of power, enough energy to power 5 million homes in Ethiopia and its neighbouring countries, providing electricity to around 60% of Ethiopian households which are so far not connected to the grid.

Italian company Salini Impregilo received the US$4.8 billion contract in March 2011, and days after it was made public, the foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Built on The Blue Nile, the river is one of two sources of the Nile, providing 85% of the water that flows north through Sudan and Egypt. Both countries are opposed to the dam, believing it will limit the water drawn from the Nile. Ethiopia contends that the dam would control irrigation water and not affect the amount of water available downstream.

Due to a lack of international funding, Ethiopia has used innovative internal fundraising methods, such as bond sales and convincing employees to pay a percentage of their earnings, to finance the dam. The only external source came from The Exim Bank of China, investing $1 billion in the project.

Number 2: Mambilla hydropower project

The second project is the Mambilla hydropower project. Located in Kakara Village in the north-eastern state of Taraba, The $5.8 billion project will connect three dams across the Donga River, eventually generating a total installed capacity of 3,050 megawatts of electricity.

The project has been in planning for over three decades, first envisaged in 1972. The twelve-turbine dam will be the largest power plant in Nigeria with an annual projected output of over 4.7 billion kilowatt-hours when it begins running in 2030.

In 2007, China's Gezhouba Group was given a contract to develop the project with construction anticipated to generate up to 50,000 local jobs. Originally planned for a 2,600 megawatt installed capacity, in 2012, the project’s capacity was raised to 3,050 megawatts. Making it financially viable to move the project forward.

Number 3: Tunar Solar Park

The Sahara desert spans nine million square kilometres, several North African nations and receives some of the largest share of sunlight and solar radiation on the entire planet. Tunisia has solar radiation levels up to 20% higher than even the most significant sites in Europe, making it the ideal location for low-cost large-scale solar energy development. This brings us to the next project, the TuNur Solar Park. The collaboration between Maltese and Tunisian oil & gas investors, and British solar developer, Nur Energie.

The 4.5-gigawatt mega project is Tunisia’s largest energy export venture and will use underwater cables to pipe electricity to power homes across Malta, Italy, and France. The 10,000-hectare solar complex will cover an area three times the size of Manhattan. 

The project utilises the Saharan sun’s energy, shining through hundreds of thousands of parabolic mirrors attached to towers up to 200 metres tall and heating the molten salts inside of them. The water is then boiled, creating enough steam to drive turbines that could electrify up to 2.5 million homes.

Number 4: Grand Inga Dam

The fourth project takes us to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where only 9% of the country's 70 million people have access to electricity. The Grand Inga Dam is a group of several planned hydroelectric power plants. Two low power plants are currently active with the first launching in 1972 & the second in 1982. Located in the Inga Falls on the Congo river, the dam is being considered for expansion. With a proposed third dam that will increase the capacity of the dam by adding a 4.8-gigawatt power plant.

Due to the location’s vertical drop, water volume, and velocity. Estimates suggest the area can host numerous hydroelectric power plants with a combined generation capacity of 40 gigawatts, with plants ranging between 4 to 8 gigawatts.

Full development of the Inga area could create a dam that would become the world’s largest hydropower plant by output, nearly double the size of the current largest, China’s Three Gorges Dam and create enough energy to meet 80% of Africa needs

Overall building costs have been estimated to reach as high as $80 billion, so the current design allows for the staggering development of each station as well as the autonomous development of the several power stations in the series with the potential for the new dams to be held by different investors.

Number 5: Lake Turkana 

Lastly, the Lake Turkana Wind power project. A wind farm in Marsabit County's Loiyangalani District, north of Nairobi in Kenya. Created in 2006 by KP&P and Anset Africa, the 310-megawatt wind farm covers 40,000 acres of land, a size large enough to fit 47 of New York's central parks. It consists of 365 wind turbines, each having the capacity to produce 850-kilowatt and collectively power one million homes.Turbines capitalise on the power of the wind of the Turkana wind corridor, where strong wind travels between two mountains, Kulal & Nyiru. Making it the ideal location for a wind farm.

Work started in October 2014 and finished in June 2017. All 365 wind turbines had been built, and as of March 2021, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Station started to produce 100% of the intended 310 megawatts, contributing 17% of Kenya installed capacity.

33kV overhead electric cables carry the power produced to a substation situated on the property, before incorporating into the national power system through 400kV high-voltage electric power lines to a substation in Suswa, 520 kilometres south of Loiyangalani.

Kenya has committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and along with Lake Turkana, in 2018, they added 54 megawatt Garissa Solar Power project and 26 megawatt Ngong Wind Plants to the national grid.

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