Tue. Mar 5th, 2024

Debunking Misconceptions: An In-depth Analysis of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s Electricity Production Potential

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP) (February 15, 2021)
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP) (February 15, 2021)

Introduction
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has become a subject of contention with erroneous information surrounding its electricity generation capacity, particularly espoused by some Egyptian experts. A faction of these experts, including the former Irrigation Minister Mohamed Nasr Allam, Dr. Abbas Sharaky, and the current Irrigation Minister Hani Sawarim, have utilized research from Ethiopian anti-GERD scholar, Dr. Asfaw Beyene, to predict severe ramifications of the massive Renaissance Dam on Egypt.

On Mar 23, 2023, the Egyptian irrigation minister claimed at a UN water conference that Ethiopia has overstated the dam’s scale. Concurrently, Dr. Abbas Sharaky suggested that Egypt might present this issue to the UN.

Dr. Asfaw Beyene’s research has frequently been employed by several Egyptian experts to critique the Renaissance Dam. According to Dr. Asfaw, the dam represents more of a political tool than a practical solution, and the $5 billion used for its construction could have been invested in other infrastructural initiatives. He further proposes that the Ethiopian government should decrease the number of turbines in the dam from 16 to 7. This paper strives to offer an exhaustive analysis and prediction of the Dam’s electricity production, accounting for the seasonal river flow rate variations.

Background
The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) houses thirteen turbines – two 375 MW Francis turbine generators and eleven 400 MW turbines – amassing a total installed capacity of 5,150 MW, equivalent to 15,760 GWh when operating at full capacity. The present annual energy production in Ethiopia is approximately 14,500 GWh. Therefore, the additional generation potential of 15,760 GWh from GERD would fulfill domestic demands and even provide a surplus for export.

Methods
This study recommends an optimized turbine operation strategy aligned with the seasonal fluctuations in river flow rates. These rates are categorized into a high flood period (4 months), a moderate flow period (3 months), and a low flow period (5 months). To optimize electricity production, the number of operating turbines would be regulated for each period while maintaining the two low-level 375 MW turbines operational throughout.

Detailed Calculations
To ascertain the electricity generation for each period, we’ll ensure the functionality of the two 375 MW turbines and regulate the number of operational 400 MW turbines:

A. High flood period (4 months): All thirteen turbines (two 375 MW and eleven 400 MW) would be operational, generating a total capacity of 5,150 MW. The calculated electricity production equates to 14,832 GWh.

B. Moderate flow period (3 months): Eight turbines (two 375 MW and six 400 MW) would be operational, yielding a total capacity of 3,150 MW. The calculated electricity production amounts to 6,804 GWh.

C. Low flow period (5 months): Merely, the two 375 MW turbines would remain operational, resulting in a total capacity of 750 MW. The calculated electricity production equates to 2,700 GWh.

The dam’s planned final capacity of 5,150 MW or 5.15 GW, along with an average capacity factor of 0.286, allows us to calculate the average daily energy output as 35.3052 GWh/day.

Turbine Efficiency Calculation
To achieve an annual output of 15,760 GWh in all options, we can calculate the required turbine efficiency. The total electricity production for all periods is estimated at 24,336 GWh. Therefore, the overall efficiency would be:

Efficiency = (Actual Electricity Production / Installed Capacity) * 100
Efficiency = (15,760 GWh / 24,336 GWh) * 100 ≈ 64.65%

To achieve an output of 15,760 GWh in all options, the turbines would need to operate at an overall efficiency of approximately 64.65%. It’s important to note that this is a rough estimate, and the actual turbine efficiency may vary based on design, maintenance, and operating conditions.

Results
By adjusting the number of operational turbines during each period, the GERD can potentially generate a total annual electricity production of approximately 24,336 GWh. If the goal is to maintain an output of 5,150 MW for 12 hours each day throughout the year, the number of operating turbines would need to be adjusted accordingly. This would require the constant operation of the two 375 MW turbines along with the necessary number of 400 MW turbines.

Detailed Calculations:
To achieve a generation capacity of 5,150 MW with the two 375 MW turbines always operational, an additional 4,400 MW would be needed. This could be accomplished with eleven 400 MW turbines. Therefore, during each 12-hour operational period, regardless of the season, all thirteen turbines would need to be operational.

The daily electricity production under these conditions would be:
5,150 MW * 12 hours/day = 61,800 MWh or 61.8 GWh.

The annual electricity production for each period, given that all turbines are operational for 12 hours each day would be as follows:

Peak flood period (4 months):
61.8 GWh/day * 30 days/month * 4 months = 7,416 GWh.

Moderate flow period (3 months):
61.8 GWh/day * 30 days/month * 3 months = 5,562 GWh.

Low flow period (5 months):
61.8 GWh/day * 30 days/month * 5 months = 9,270 GWh.

Results:

By keeping all thirteen turbines operational for 12 hours each day, regardless of the season, the dam could achieve the following electricity production:

Peak flood period (4 months): 7,416 GWh
Moderate flow period (3 months): 5,562 GWh
Low flow period (5 months): 9,270 GWh

The total annual electricity production would then be:
7,416 GWh (peak flood) + 5,562 GWh (moderate flow) + 9,270 GWh (low flow) ≈ 22,248 GWh.


Conclusion:
In conclusion, based on the meticulous analysis conducted in this study, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has the potential to generate approximately 22,248 GWh of electricity annually by maintaining an output capacity of 5,150 MW for 12 hours daily throughout the year. This operational strategy ensures constant power generation and efficient dam operation, providing a reliable estimate of the dam’s electricity production capabilities.

To achieve the desired output of 5,150 MW, all thirteen turbines, including the two 375 MW turbines and the necessary eleven 400 MW turbines, would need to be operational during each 12-hour period throughout the year. This adjustment in the number of operating turbines guarantees a consistent generation of the desired capacity.

Furthermore, the estimated turbine efficiency required to achieve an output of 15,760 GWh in all options is approximately 64.65%. However, it is important to acknowledge that the actual turbine efficiency may vary depending on factors such as design, maintenance, and operating conditions.

While the analysis provides a comprehensive understanding of the dam’s electricity generation potential, it is crucial to consider that actual electricity production may fluctuate due to various variables, including turbine efficiency, actual flow rates, and power demand.

Overall, this study highlights the significant contribution of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to Ethiopia’s electricity generation capacity. By utilizing accurate information and conducting detailed assessments, we can dispel misinformation and gain a deeper insight into the dam’s capabilities as a vital source of clean energy for the country.

References:
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Wikipedia:
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Ethiopian_Renaissance_Dam

Blue Nile Sub-basin Seasonal flow patterns – Nile Basin Water Resources Atlas:
Source: Nile Basin Initiative. “Blue Nile Sub-basin Seasonal flow patterns.” Nile Basin Water Resources Atlas. Retrieved from: https://nilebasinatlas.org/index.php/atlas/index/en/1043-blue-nile-sub-basin-seasonal-flow-patterns

Rainfall Distribution – Nile Basin Water Resources Atlas:
Source: Nile Basin Initiative. “Rainfall Distribution.” Nile Basin Water Resources Atlas. Retrieved from: https://directives.sc.egov.usda.gov/OpenNonWebContent.aspx?content=32534.wba

Analysis of Hydrological Characteristics of Blue Nile Basin, Nashe Watershed:
Source: Tulu, T., Yeshaneh, E., & Kifle, D. (2019). Analysis of Hydrological Characteristics of Blue Nile Basin, Nashe Watershed. Applied Sciences, 9(4), 784. Retrieved from: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/9/4/784

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