The 35MW Kinguele Aval hydropower plant in Gabon has reached financial close, with construction to start this year.

The run-of-the-river project on the M'Bei River is being developed by Meridiam and FGIS. Mott MacDonald is the technical, environmental and social advisor on the project on behalf of the project lenders: the International Finance Corporation, African Development Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund, acting through its duly authorised agent Ninety One.

The plant will comprise of a 48m high, 250m long conventional concrete gravity dam with 210m long embankment dam, diverting water to a surface powerhouse, containing 3x12MW vertical axis Francis turbines, with a maximum flow rate of 90m³/ecs.

The hydropower plant underscores Gabon's ‘Plan Stratégique Gabon Émergent’ that commits the Gabonese government to provide its people with affordable electricity. The government is also aiming for energy transition, displacing expensive and polluting thermal power through demonstrating a commercially viable and sustainable way of developing the country's hydro potential.

As part of the project’s “social contract” in the Local Community Development Plan, the plant will provide electrification for the local communities of Alen Komo, Andock Foula, Makabane and Madouacka. It will also set up a local development fund for small local community projects in healthcare, education and culture.

The Kinguélé Aval dam will be constructed in the buffer zone of the Monts de Cristal National Park, while the reservoir will cover about 2% of the national park’s surface. The project will provide financial and logistical support for a de facto extension of the national park by enabling protection of approximately 2000ha of adjoining land.

Mott MacDonald carried out technical due diligence on the hydro plant which included a review of the plant design including aspects such as geology and geotechnical, hydrology resources and energy yield forecasts, as well as a review of the broader project commercial basis. In addition, Mott MacDonald undertook detailed due diligence on all environmental and social aspects, including review of proposed project environmental and social management plans. Due to potential project impact, biodiversity aspects were reviewed in great detail, including several versions of the project’s strategies for managing biodiversity including the project Biodiversity Action Plan, Offset Feasibility Study, and protections for the wide range of fauna and flora including great apes, located within the park.