The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has begun its operation. It sits in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region on the Blue Nile, and it will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric plant once it is completed.
The first of 13 turbines recently began operation, with a capacity of 375 MW. The next turbine is expected to be online within a few months, and the entire project is expected to be fully operational by 2024, with a total capacity of 5,150 megawatts (MW), or 15,759 Gigawatt-hours per year.
Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Africa and has the second-largest electricity deficit on the continent. However, GERD will revolutionize the nation’s and region’s future, as some of the electricity will be exported to neighboring countries.
The dam is a roller-compacted concrete (RCC) gravity-type, made up of two power stations, three spillways, and a saddle dam with the entire project expected to cost $5 billion. The dam will be able to provide more services to the nation and region than just electrical production, it will be able to 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 is designed to handle a flood of 19,370 cubic meters per second, reduce alluvium in the Sudan by 100 million cubic meters, and facilitate the irrigation of around 500,000 hectares (1 hectare or ha, equals 107,639 sq ft) of new agricultural lands. In addition, it is expected to reduce flooding in the Sudan by approximately 40km, upon completion.
Although GERD is not as big as China’s 60-Gigawatt Yarlung Tsangpo Dam, it will change the lives of many people in Africa, in a very positive way.