Sudanese development20 September 2010
The development of hydropower resources in Sudan will help meet increasing energy demands. New hydro plants, both large and small, will play their role along with untapped power potential at existing structures
Sudan is blessed with the largest supply of fresh water in the eastern Africa region. However, with an annual growth rate of 2.8%, it is also considered to be one of the least developed countries. At the backbone of the Sudanese economy is its agricultural sector which determines to a great extent economic performance.
Seventy percent of the country’s 40M population live in rural areas with electricity only providing a small percentage of energy needs. The main energy sources are wood fuel and petroleum. Hydropower supplies about 50% of electricity.
Like many tropical countries, Sudan has ample water resources that can be efficiently exploited in a manner that is both profitable and sustainable. Small hydropower offers cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy solutions for Sudan, with the added benefit of providing sustainable livelihoods in rural areas. The use of hydro energy resources could play an important role in this context. It represents an excellent opportunity to offer a higher standard of living to the local people and will save local and regional resources.
Water and power resources
Annual average rainfall in Sudan ranges from about 1mm in the northern desert to about 1600mm in the equatorial region. The total annual rainfall is estimated at 1093.2 x 109 m3. The Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources (MIWR) is in charge of water resources and total water storage available at all dams is 18km3.
Sudan’s installed capacity on the grid is 640MW, of which about 520MW is available. The country has a generation and transmission programme, according to which total capacity will increase to 3383MW in 2016.
Some of the major hydro plants in operation are: Roseires (280MW) and Sennar (15MW), both on the Blue Nile, Rumela (20MW) and Khashm El Girba (13MW), on the Atbara River. However, in May 2010, Sudanese President, Omer Al-Bashir, inaugurated a fifth project. The Merowe hydropower station had swung into operation earlier in the year after completion of the tenth Francis unit, and the addition of 1250MW of capacity to the national electricity network.
The scheme has been described by Sudanese officials as a great accomplishment and good evidence of genuine development in the country. The generation of 600GWh of electricity annually will boost different agricultural, industrial and services sectors in the country. It will also help to enhance living conditions and bolster the development process in Sudan, especially in the northern states.
Up to 2000MW of hydropower capacity could also be developed in the future. There is also great potential (about 3000MW) for increasing capacity at existing hydropower sites (See shaded panel).
Small hydro potential
The small hydro potential in Sudan is promising. A number of prospective areas have been identified by surveys, and studies are being carried out to explore mini hydro resources. Mini and micro hydro can be developed by using waterfalls with heads ranging from 1-100m. In addition, the current flow of the Nile water could be used to run in-stream turbines; water could then be pumped to riverside farms. There are more than 200 suitable sites for the use of in-stream turbines along the Blue Nile and the main Nile. The total potential of mini hydro can be considered to be 67GWh/yr for the southern region, with 3785MWh/yr in the Jebel Marra, and 44895MWh/yr in El Gezira and El Managil canals.
In the past, Sudan was badly affected by rapidly rising fuel costs, although the country is now in a position to export oil. The country intends to implement new hydro projects to meet increasing demand and to avoid power shortages. Small-scale, decentralised hydropower can provide valuable reserve power and potentially make major contributions to local energy needs, especially the southern region along the White Nile from Malakal to the border with Uganda.
Article by Abdeen Mustafa Omer, Researcher, Energy Research Institute (ERI), University Of Nottingham, UK, Email: [email protected]
|Hydropower for existing dams|
Raising Roseires Dam