The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has invited applications from construction and other professionals to work on the proposed 4.8GW Inga-3 Basse Chute hydroelectric project, as well as several smaller schemes in the country.
The decision to begin recruitment is the latest indication that the series of dams that will eventually make up the Grand Inga project will go ahead, after decades of frustrated plans.
It is also good news for South Africa, which has made the dam the cornerstone of its future energy strategy.
Work on the plant is expected to start in October following commitments from the World Bank and other development agencies to part-finance its construction.
South Africa has signed a treaty with the Democratic Republic of Congo to buy between 9.5GW and 13GW from Inga dams, which are expected eventually to cost about $100 billion and generate up to 50GW.
The prospects for the Grand Inga have been improved by a dramatic improvement in the DRC’s economy.
According to a recent report by the IMF the economy grew almost 10% last year, and the country returned a budgetary surplus.
The Inga site currently includes the 350MW Inga 1 and 1.4GW Inga 2 plants, which are undergoing refurbishment. Most of this electricity is used in copper mines in the country’s southern Katanga province.
As part of the Inga programme, the Congolese government is also examining the 30 most attractive medium-sized hydropower sites in the country, with plans to perform feasibility studies on the three most promising.
Job descriptions and profiles are available on the Internet site of consultant, Sesomo.
Expressions of interest, including covering letters, resumés and professional references are due by 3pm, 6 October.
The DRC’s hydropower potential
It has been estimated that the total hydropower potential of the DRC is about 100GW, which is larger than generating capacity of the US’ nuclear power industry.
At present, the 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa have a total installed capacity of about 70GW, so the Grand Inga could revolutionise Africa’s electricity landscape.
The site of the Grand Inga is uniquely well suited to hydropower because it is close the mouth of the Congo river, the second largest in the world by volume, with a flow rate of 42 million tonnes a second.
Usually, dam sites are located farther upriver, where valleys are narrow enough to form reservoirs, however at the site of the Inga the Congo forms a hairpin bend, broadens to 4km and enters an archipelago of islands and channels before narrowing to 260m and breaking into a series of cascades where dams can be located.
So far, two small barrages have been built, in 1972 and 1982, which became partially derelict during the Congolese wars.
The present plans for the Inga are to construct a series of larger dams, beginning with the Inga 3, for which the preparatory work is well advanced, and ending around Inga 7 or 8. In its final form, a total of eight power stations would be built.
Photograph: The mighty Congo, just before it hits the Inga falls (Serein/Wikimedia Commons)