Sudan opens first phase of $1.9bn twin dam project

Sudan has completed the first phase of a $1.9b hydropower project that will increase the country’s installed generating capacity by about 13%. The project is being built by China International Water and Electric (CWE), a subsidiary of the Three Gorges Corporation.

Altogether, the twin dams of Upper Atbara and Setit Complex in eastern Sudan will generate 320MW using four 80W turbines, one of which has been completed. They will also provide irrigation for an area of 5,000ha.

The interconnected dams are located on two tributaries of the Nile close to the Eritrean border. The Rumela Dam is on the Upper Atbara and the Burdana is on Setit. So far, one 80MW unit has been completed. The Sudan Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity has said the remaining units are scheduled to begin operation in April, June and August this year.

The Rumela dam in 2015 (CWE)

The contract for building the dams was signed in April 2010, the groundbreaking ceremony took place in November of the same year and construction began in 2011.

The project 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 220kV, 28km-long high-voltage electricity transmission line that connects the power station to the Sudanese national grid.

According to the electricity ministry, Sudan had 1.5GW of hydropower and 900MW of thermal power in 2015. The aim is to increase this to 2GW of hydro and 4.5GW of thermal by the end of 2020.

At present, only about a third of the population of Sudan have access to mains electricity, and those areas that do have it, such as Khartoum, are plagued by power outages. In 2015 the government said it hoped to extend the grid to all major towns and cities, and signed a $50m contract with the Shanghai Electric Group Company to link Darfur to the national grid. However, it also doubled electricity and water tariffs.

In 2013, riots over the lifting of fuel subsidies resulted in the deaths of several hundred protesters.

Top image: Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha inspecting the dams in 2015 (CWE)

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