December 17, 2016 - Ethiopia has inaugurated Gibe III, the biggest hydroelectric dam in the country with an installed capacity of 1,870 MW and the tallest of its kind in the world. Built by Salini Impregilo, it will almost double the eastern African country’s electricity production as it strives to modernize its economy and become a regional energy hub.
Located on the Omo River 450 kilometres southwest of the capital Addis Ababa, the dam is the latest in a series being built by the country to harness its vast water supply. As the source of a number of rivers including the Blue Nile flowing from its mountains, Ethiopia is known as the “Water Tower of Africa”.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn presided over the inaugural ceremony of the €1.5 billion project in the presence of Water, Irrigation and Electricity Minister Eng Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopian Electric Power Chief Executive Azeb Asnake and Ethiopian Electric Power Chairman Debretsion Gebremichael. Salini Impregilo Chief Executive Pietro Salini, General Manager International Operations Claudio Lautizi were also present. Ethiopian Electric Power commissioned the project.
“This is a very special day for Salini Impregilo and in particular for me,” said Chief Executive Pietro Salini in a speech. “What was considered a dream – after years of hard work – has now become a reality.
“We are grateful to Ethiopian Electric Power and the Federal and Regional Governments for dealing with us as partners in development, and for trusting our capacity for completing Gibe III. Salini Impregilo is honoured to have given service both to them and to this great nation,” he added.
Gibe III will generate up to 6,500 GWh of electricity a year, increasing the country’s production capacity by at least 80%.
It is an extension of a greater complex that includes two other hydroelectric dams: Gibe I and Gibe II.
These three dams, along with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built by Salini Impregilo, are the product of an ambitious programme by the country to arrive at a generation capacity of 40,000 MW by 2035.
Gibe III is the first dam in Ethiopia to be built using roller-compacted concrete (RCC). Standing at 250 metres, it is the tallest of its kind in the world. Its crest length is 630 metres.
The volume of concrete used to build the dam totaled 6.2 million cubic metres, two and a half times the amount of material used for the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The water reservoir created by the dam holds 15 billion cubic metres, equal to half the volume of Lake Tana, the largest in Ethiopia.
Gibe III has 10 Francis turbines with a combined capacity of 1,870 MW – the same amount produced by two nuclear power plants.
The benefits of the project were already evident during its construction, contributing enormously to the local economy. It created jobs for a combined total of 20,000 Ethiopians during the various phases of its construction. Its complexity also called for the greatest expertise in the field, involving people from 32 countries.
The dam’s inauguration is the latest success for Salini Impregilo in Ethiopia, where it has been present for nearly 60 years.