Sudan’s 1,250-MW Merowe to begin operation in 2008

Sudan’s 1,250-MW Merowe Dam is to start generating power next year, and eventually will increase the vast African nation’s electricity supply by 150 percent.

The nine-kilometer-long dam on the Nile River is to have ten 125-MW turbine-generators. However, only two will be operational next year, which officials said would ease the pressure on existing sources of energy. (HNN 4/18/07)

“That means 250 MW will be available for the system and it will be connected to the national grid,” Tag Elsir Ahmed, chairman of the High Technical Committee for Merowe Dam, said August 14. �The other eight units will come in sequence until sometime in 2009.”

Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, has faced electricity problems, especially in the hot summers. Few towns outside the capital enjoy regular power supplies.

“In our aspiration to solve Sudan’s problems, we realized that one of the biggest problems we faced was power,” Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said after touring the site.

Sudan moved tens of thousands of people — in certain cases by force — from villages in the vicinity of the dam, 350 kilometers north of Khartoum, saying it was a national necessity.

“Many industries in Khartoum, Port Sudan, and the major industrial areas virtually came to a standstill because of intermittent power supply,” Bashir said. “Besides, the amount of power currently being generated meets only a fraction of the requirements of the Sudanese people.”

Immediate beneficiaries will include farmers in northern Sudan who use diesel-fueled pumps to irrigate their crops, Ahmed said.

The US$2 billion project employs 5,000 people, half of them foreigners. Involved in the project are Chinese, French, and German companies, with the bulk of the funds coming from Arab countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman in the form of soft loans and grants.

Chinese consortium CCMD is carrying out the bulk of the work on the dam. China International Water &Electric Corp. and China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corp. won a 555 million euro (US$648 million) contract to build the project. Two Chinese firms also won a contract worth US$66 million for hydro-mechanical works.

Sudan’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources awarded a contract worth 250 million euros (US$293 million) to Alstom of France to supply electro-mechanical equipment. A US$400 million contract was awarded to Harbin Power Engineering Co. of China to construct transmission lines and substations.

One serious challenge builders faced was diverting the flow of the Nile, which was done twice — to the left and then to the right — to enable construction.

“From now on the river will only pass through the spillways and the power station,” Ahmed said.

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