Ethiopia has inaugurated Gibe III, the biggest hydroelectric dam in the country with an installed capacity of 1,870 MW and the tallest of its kind in the world.
Built by Italian contractor Salini Impregilo, it will almost double the eastern African country’s electricity production as it strives to modernise its economy and become a regional energy hub, Salini Impregilo said on 17 December.
What was considered a dream – after years of hard work – has now become a reality– Pietro Salini, Salini Impregilo chief executive
Located on the Omo River 450km southwest of the capital Addis Ababa, the dam is the latest in a series being built by the country to harness its vast water supply. As the source of a number of rivers including the Blue Nile flowing from its mountains, Ethiopia is known as the "Water Tower of Africa".
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn presided over the inaugural ceremony of the €1.5bn project.
"This is a very special day for Salini Impregilo and in particular for me," company chief executive Pietro Salini said in a speech. "What was considered a dream – after years of hard work – has now become a reality."
Gibe III will generate up to 6,500 GWh of electricity a year, increasing the country’s production capacity by at least 80%. It is an extension of a greater complex that includes two other hydroelectric dams: Gibe I and Gibe II.
These three dams, along with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), also being built by Salini Impregilo, are part of Ethiopia’s ambitious plan to arrive at a generation capacity of 40,000 MW by 2035.
Gibe III is the first dam in Ethiopia to be built using roller-compacted concrete (RCC). Standing at 250m, it is the tallest of its kind in the world, Salini Impregilo says. Its crest length is 630m.
The volume of concrete used to build the dam totalled 6.2 million cubic metres, two and a half times the amount of material used for the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The water reservoir created by the dam holds 15 billion cubic metres, equal to half the volume of Lake Tana, the largest in Ethiopia.
Gibe III has 10 Francis turbines with a combined capacity of 1,870 MW – the same amount produced by two nuclear power plants.
Its construction created jobs for 20,000 Ethiopians during various phases, while technical experts from 32 countries took part.
Image: Gibe III is the first dam in Ethiopia to be built using roller-compacted concrete, and is the tallest such dam in the world (Salini Impregilo)