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Sudan inaugurates US$1.9 billion Upper Atbara and Setit Dam hydropower project

President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Al Bashir, inaugurated the US$1.9 billion twin-dam 320-MW Upper Atbara and Setit Dam hydropower project in eastern Sudan on Thursday.

The beginning operation of Unit 1, the first of four 80-MW turbines, marked the inauguration, according to the project’s owner, Sudan Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity.

The facility is located about 20-km upstream from the junction of the Atbara and Setit rivers and about 80-km south of the 10-MW Khashm el-Girba hydropower project.

The remaining units, according to the ministry, are scheduled to begin operation within the following timeframe: Unit 2 in April, Unit 3 in June and Unit 4 in August.

Published reports estimate $838 million of the project’s cost is for the construction of the dams, which were built by China International Water & Electric Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Three Gorges Corp.

The project’s two interconnected dams in Rumela and Burdana have a combined total water storage capacity of about 2.7 billion cubic meters and each location has a powerhouse. The project also includes a reservoir at the confluence of Upper Atbara and Setit rivers, a canal connecting the two dams, two spillways for surplus water and a 220 kV, 28-km-long high voltage electricity transmission line that connects the power station to the Sudanese national grid.

The plant will provide needed energy to the country.

In 2015, HydroWorld.com reported the ministry announced that Sudan routinely faces a 5% deficit in electricity supply during peak hours.

The organization said electricity from 1,250-MW Merowe hydropower facility, Sudan’s largest capacity hydroelectric project, cannot fully-power Khartoum even if it is operating at its maximum capacity. Khartoum is the capital and second-largest city of Sudan, located in Khartoum state.

Of the country’s 39 million inhabitants, only 35% have access to electricity. This means, according to estimates from the United Nations Development Program, more than 25 million people in Sudan are not connected to its national electricity grid.

The contract for building the dams was signed in April 2010, the ground breaking ceremony for the main works took place in November 2010 and construction began in 2011.