Step aside Three Gorges dam. Africa will – if current plans come to fruition – host the world’s largest Hydro electric power generating project. Going by the name Grand Inga it will be situated on the mighty Congo river which is the second largest river by flow after the Amazon.
The construction of the Grand Inga is still to start but with a price tag of US$80 billion it is no wonder that a lot remains to be done. When fully completed the dam will produce 40,000MW of electricity far exceeding the Three Gorges Dam in China which holds the distinction of being the largest HEP project currently. Power hungry South Africa has committed to purchase half the power and plans are already on the drawing board to construct the power lines to link the 2 countries.
According to AECOM-EdF who conducted a feasibility study a couple of years ago the Grand Inga will be constructed in 6 phases with the Inga 3 being the first. There already exists Inga 1 and 2 that are small dams completed in the seventies and eighties respectively. Inga 3 would be constructed in two steps, initially a low head and then a high head, extending the dam wall and making it higher. There would be no closure of the Congo River and no tunnels, just an open channel. About 6,000m3 m/s would be diverted for Inga 3 to a valley which runs parrallel to the Congo riverbed. If completed, Inga 3 would produce 4,800MW of electricity.
Further stages would necessitate the flooding of the Bundi Valley to form a 22,000-hectare reservoir, drowning the Inga 3 channel. The latest design approach allows the development of Grand Inga to have independent phases that could be operated by different operators.
The Grand Inga project was first conceived in the seventies promises to provide half of Africa’s electricity needs and be a vehicle for change on the sub-Saharan continent if it ever gets off the ground.