Cameroon’s Nachtigal hydroelectric dam to complete power-up by mid 2024

The Nachtigal hydroelectric dam under construction in Cameroon was reported to be 51.7% complete at the end of November 2021.

By Chriselle Moraes on
22nd January 2022

Construction work on the 1.5 metres long, 420MW, Nachtigal hydroelectric dam project began in February 2019 and is currently expected to be completed in July 2024.

The project developer is Nachtigal Hydro Power Company (NHPC). NHPC is a consortium of France's Électricité de France (EDF) (40% shareholding), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) (20% shareholding), the Republic of Cameroon (15% shareholding),  Africa50 (15% shareholding), and STOA Infra & Energy (10% shareholding).

The hydropower project is located on the Sanaga River near Nachtigal Falls, 65 km northeast of Yaoundé in Cameroon.

The construction work on the project is divided into four lots – civil works, installation of electro-mechanical equipment, construction of transmission lines, and construction of housing for staff. The civil works include the dam construction, downstream works, penstocks, and hydromechanical equipment of downstream additions.

Belgian contractor Besix is the civil works contractor on the project. Besix are working in partnership with French infrastructure company Nouvelles Générations d’Entrepreneurs (NGE) and Morocco’s Société Général des Travaux du Maroc (SGTM). 

GE Hydro France and Elecnor are the electromechanical contractors on the project, while Bouygues Energies and Services is installing the transmission lines.

The project has an estimated investment cost of US$1.4 billion. A quarter of the cost will be covered by NHPC’s shareholders according to their percentage stake in the project. Lenders will finance the rest, including Agence Française de Développement (AFD) which is providing a €150 million loan to the project.

As at the end of November 2021, NHPC estimates that 51% of the overall dam construction has been completed, with the following completion rates reported: 52% on the civil engineering package, 48.2% on the electromechanical package, 99.8% on the transmission line package and 86.6% on the operating package.

During a visit to the project site on 20 December 2021, Cameroon's Minister of Water and Energy, Gaston Eloundou Essomba, stated that “We asked the firm in charge of the construction [ Nachtigal Hydro Power Company] to make every possible effort to meet the new deadline. The new deadline provides that the first machine will be starting operations in July 2023 and the seventh and last in July 2024”.

Electricity produced from the Nachtigal hydroelectric power plant will be sold to Energy of Cameroon (ENEO), Cameroon's main electric utility company, under a 35 year power purchase agreement.

A substation of 225kV and a 50.3 kilometres long double circuit transmission line is also being constructed as part of the hydropower project, to transfer the power generated to the Nyom 2 substation, which will then be further transmitted to the Southern Interconnected Grid (SIG), the national grid. The SIG is managed by Energy of Cameroon (ENEO).

The project was originally scheduled for completion in 2023. However, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and employee strikes have contributed to its delay. On completion, the hydroelectric plant will produce 2,900 GWh per year. This will put Cameroon on the map as an electricity exporter in the region both in the medium and long term future.

Top Photo: Progress photograph of Nachtigal Dam construction works, released by BESIX on 22 December 2021 (@BESIXOfficial Twitter Handle)

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