Ethiopia's mega-dam will generate 5,000 MW of electricity along the Blue Nile

The hydropower plant is the largest in Africa.
Fabienne Lang
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Abiy Ahmed Ali/Facebook

Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, pressed the buttons that allegedly kick-started the country's mega-dam on Sunday, 20 February, sharing the news on his Twitter handle.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) sits in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region on the Blue Nile and is Africa's largest hydroelectric scheme, according to Phys.org. 

As the second-most populous country in Africa, Ethiopia also has the second-largest electricity deficit on the continent, according to the World Bank. This huge undertaking is set to hopefully revolutionize the nation's and region's future.

Once completed, the project is set to cost $5 billion and will be the continent's largest hydroelectric power plant by generating 5,150 megawatts (MW) of electricity, or 15,759 Gigawatt hours per year, per the project's official website. Some of the electricity will be exported to neighboring countries, per the local government.

The mega-dam's capabilities

Aside from generating electricity, the dam will regulate water flow in the region, hopefully improving agriculture and minimizing water evaporation.

The main and saddle dams will also create reservoirs with an impounding capacity of 74 billion cubic meters. "The dam will be able to handle a flood of 19,370 cubic meters per second, will reduce alluvium in Sudan by 100 million cubic meters, and also facilitate irrigation of around 500,000ha of new agricultural lands. It will also reduce approximately 40km of flooding in Sudan, upon its completion," wrote Water Technology.

The dam is a roller-compacted concrete (RCC) gravity-type, made up of two power stations, three spillways, and a saddle dam, according to Water Technology. 

The impressive dam only has one of its 13 turbines currently in operation, with a capacity of 375 MW. The next turbine will come to life in a few months and the dam will be fully completed by 2024, Phys.org mentioned.

Even though it's not as big as China's Yarlung Tsangpo Dam project with its 60-gigawatt capacity, GERD looks like it'll change the lives of many people in the region.

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