Completion of 14.8-MW Lunzua, Zambia, small hydro rehabilitation part of US$650 million project


In Lunzua, Northern Province, Zambia, operation of the US$51 million 14.8-MW Lunzua small hydro project will end part one of a three-phase, US$650 million construction and rehabilitation program to provide electricity to the province’s increasing population.

Success of the Lunzua station, which originally began service in 1960 providing a capacity of 750 kW to the Zambian national grid, cannot come soon enough. The small hydroelectric rehabilitation will begin generating electricity this year.

Zambia Electricity Supply Company Ltd. (ZESCO) – Zambia’s national power company – in conjunction with the Lunza Power Authority (LPA) made the announcement in Lusaka on Oct. 10. Lunzua will use water from Lake Tanganyika in the Mpulungu District.

Lake Tanganyika is part of Zambia that borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the west and Tanzania to the east. Small hydropower in the region, including Lunzua, is generated from 15-MW Chishimba Falls, 15-MW Lusiwasi Upper and 10-MW Musonda falls.

The Lunzua power project is one of several hydroelectric projects that ZESCO has contracted LPA to complete, according to several published reports. Of the contracted projects, the total installed capacity will be 247 MW, with an expected 2017 completion date, according to ZESCO.

Increased power in the Northern Province will come from the construction of two facilities that include the 93-MW Kabwelume Falls power plant and 151-MW Kundabwika Falls power plant, and construction of a 330-kV high-voltage transmission line from two power plants in Kasama, according to ZESCO. A 66-kV line will also be constructed at the hydropower stations that will join the existing national grid at ZESCO’s Kawambwa substation in Luapula Province.

In the “2013 World Small Hydro Report,” Zambia’s Ministry of Energy and Water Development (MEWD) reported the country’s installed capacity of small hydropower is 31 MW. MEWD estimates the overall hydropower potential of Zambia is 6,000 MW, of which 1,858.5 MW has been developed. But, the agency has not determined the specific small hydropower potential.

Power for development 

According to 2013 World Bank figures, Zambia is a developing sub-Saharan Africa country that has a population of 14.6 million. The country’s main export is copper, derived from several mines in central Zambia's Copperbelt Province that include the Ndola, Kitwe, Chingola, Luanshya and Mufulira cities.

Zambia’s new and upgraded power generation facilities will allow for copper mining to expand northward, according to published documents. To that end, the country enjoys foreign financial and technical investment.

The China National Electrical Equipment Corp. (CNEEC) is providing the engineering procurement and is the construction contractor for several Northern Province projects, according to CNEEC.

Yang Youming, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, visited CNEEC on July 14 and in part said the Sino-Zambia (Chinese-Zambian) relationship is important to overall Sino-Africa relations. Youming also said, “…there are almost 500 Chinese companies in Zambia now.”

According to ZESCO, construction and upgrades at hydro power stations in the Northern Province is critical for Zambia. The agency thinks the country must produce reliable amounts of hydroelectricity in order to increase its domestic generation capacity and meet export goals to the DRC, the great lakes region in northern Zambia, and Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa.

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