June 16, 2019
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Chinese construction companies are developing a record-breaking hydropower project in Nigeria that has been compared to the world’s largest hydropower plant the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang, China.

Africa is scattered with impressive renewable energy megaprojects. Harvesting the power of the Omo River, approximately 300km south west of the capital Addis Ababa, is one of the largest of its kind in Africa.

The project has started producing energy and with all turbines switched on, it will have an outgoing power capacity of 1,870 megawatts — according to the Italian company, which is building the dam on behalf of Ethiopian Electric Power.

The world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, called the Noor Complex, is being built in the Moroccan desert. Noor 1, the first phase of three, is located near the town of Ouarzazate on the edge of the Sahara. It was switched on in February, 2016, and provides 160 megawatts of the project’s planned 580 megawatt capacity. Once completed in 2018, the project is expected to provide electricity for 1.1 million people.

Noor Complex Solar Power Plant, Morocco – The world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, called the Noor Complex, is being built in the Moroccan desert. Noor 1, the first phase of three, is located near the town of Ouarzazate on the edge of the Sahara.

Several renewable power plants are operating in the geothermal fields of Olkaria, Kenya, harvesting the power of underground geothermal energy.<br />The site is located on the floor of the Kenyan Rift Valley, near the shores of Lake Naivasha some 120 kilometers north-east of the capital, Nairobi.

Located below the Little Drakensberg mountain range along the border of the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces, the project stretches underground through a large tunnel network several kilometers long. It will generate and store power using turbines and pumps which recycle the water by pumping it back up to the reservoirs at night when the demand is low.<br />
Photos: The clean energy giants powering Africa

Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme, South Africa – Located below the Little Drakensberg mountain range along the border of the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces, the project stretches underground through a large tunnel network several kilometers long. It will generate and store power using turbines and pumps which recycle the water by pumping it back up to the reservoirs at night when the demand is low.

The location of the development could lead to complications.

“There is strong competition for land in Taraba state, which regularly sees outbreaks of ethno-religious violence,” says Donnelly. “Such a project, with its need to resettle people, could considerably worsen the conflict dynamics and humanitarian situation in the state.”
Environmental groups have also raised concerns about the potential impact.
“If the Mambila dam project does continue, it could mean disastrous environmental and social impacts for those already living in poverty along the banks of the Benue River,” warned NGO International Rivers,

The Nigerian government says that 100,000 people will be displaced by the development, and has pledged to resettle and compensate them.

Taraba state Governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku, has welcomed the project for its potential to boost tourism and agriculture.
Chinese interests

The power plant is one of several major Chinese investments in Nigeria, including multiple railway projects.

In January, Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi announced plans to invest a further $40 billion in Nigeria.

“Nigeria is seen as an important power that China wants good relations with,” says James Kimer, founder of the Washington DC PR agency Media Theory.

Sun adds that the primary motivation is financial. Investments such as the Mambila power plant make good business sense.

“Nigeria is using Chinese banks to hire Chinese companies for the project, which will create profits and jobs,” she says. “China also wants to identify large projects that make it look good and (Mambila) falls into this category.”

But while China is likely to gain from the deal, Sun sees higher risk on the Nigerian side.

“I am less optimistic about the financial impact on the Nigerian economy as the project is very large and there is a question about how Nigeria will repay the 85% finance from the Export-Import Bank,” she says. “There could be implications for the national debt.”

Mohammed Adeyemi

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