Major Hydropower Project Moves Forward in Angola

Work continues on what would be the largest hydropower project in Angola, a $5.2 billion run-of-river power station that Angolan officials have said could come online as early as 2026.

Technology group Voith on Dec. 19 said it is supplying all the electrical and mechanical equipment for the Caculo Cabaca facility, located in the midstream of the Kwanza River, in the Kwanza Norte province. Voith on Tuesday said the equipment order includes installation of five Francis turbines, featuring four with 530 MW of generation capacity, and a single 52-MW unit. Voith also is supplying generators, along with control and auxiliary systems, and is providing what it called a “customized training concept.”

The project is being developed by Angola’s Ministry of Energy and Water. The dam at the site is being built by China Gezhouba Group Corp. Caculo Cabaca is upstream of the Lauca hydropower station, currently Angola’s largest hydroelectric plant with 2,070 MW of generation capacity.

“We are absolutely delighted to be contributing to this milestone project on the African continent,” said Dr. Toralf Haag, CEO of Voith Group. “This important project will be coordinated from Heidenheim, where most of the value creation will be generated at the company’s headquarters. This makes the project execution challenging from both a technological and logistical perspective. Our experienced team of experts has therefore been preparing the work meticulously for several years now.”

The Caculo Cabaca station features a 103-meters-high concrete dam with a crest length of 553 meters. The four larger turbines are in the underground powerhouse, with the 52-MW unit located adjacent to the dam. The dam has about 440 million cubic meters of water storage capacity.

Electricity from the project will supply Angola’s national grid and also the Southern African Power Pool, a competitive energy market that serves the southern African region. Power will be moved from the station via a 400-kV transmission line.

Development of the hydroelectric project began in 2017, with much of the initial financing from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Additional funding for the hydromechanical and electromechanical equipment being supplied by Voith was granted by the German government, including a German banking consortium led by Commerzbank and UniCredit.

Voith has been involved in the development of hydropower projects across Africa for nearly a century, including supplying equipment for the Cambambe 1 and Cambambe 2 hydropower units on the Kwanza River in Cuanza Norte. Cambambe in total has 960 MW of generation capacity. The company said it has established a “six-stage training concept … for regional workers” for the Caculo Cabaca project, and also is operating a training center in Angola. Voith said the project has created about 7,000 jobs.

“We see ourselves as a partner for sustainable project implementation and provide support to plant operators and governments, from joint project development to the training of personnel,” said Dr. Tobias Keitel, president and CEO of Voith Hydro.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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