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Scatec and EDF to develop 7GWh pumped hydro plant in Malawi

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Renewable developer Scatec and energy group EDF have signed a binding agreement with the government of Malawi to develop a hydropower plant with 309MW/7,000MWh of pumped hydro energy storage.

The agreement has been signed under the country’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework and officially awards the role of project lead developer to a consortium composed of Scatec and EDF. The World Bank group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) helped with early-stage project development and funded the launch of the competitive tender.

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The project, called the Mpatamanga hydropower plant, is on the Shire River at Mpatamanga Gorge in the south of the country in between two existing hydropower plants. It will comprise a 309MW pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) plant, or ‘peaking’ plant, and a 41MW downstream run-of-river plant.

Although it did not reveal the discharge duration or energy capacity of the pumped hydro portion, an earlier USAID document which included information about the project said that “…the inclusion of the plant’s reservoir is equivalent to introducing a 7,000MWh battery system into the grid…”. This implies a roughly 22-hour duration system. The only disparity is that the earlier document said it would have 310MW of power, not 309MW.

USAID’s document added that the project will take 52 months to build (four years and four months) though a construction start date has not been revealed.

The 309MW plant will provide energy during peak demand hours of the day and help with overall grid stability by ramping up and down production, a press release said.

“The 350 MW Mpatamanga hydropower project will not only double the installed capacity of hydropower in Malawi, but also improve power supply security, provide opportunities for increased renewable energy generation capacity in the country and contribute to controlling the flow of the Shire River downstream of the power plant,” said the Minister of Energy in Malawi, Ibrahim Matola.

The project was designated a national priority and the lowest cost expansion alternative in the country’s integrated resource plan for 2017. Consultancy Mott MacDonald was tasked with providing a final Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and Biodiversity Action Plan. Some 90 households will be displaced due to the flooding caused by the creation of the upper reservoir.

It is the second major energy storage project that has progressed in the landlocked country in the last few months. In July, the World Bank provided US$24 million in guarantees for a 20MW solar-plus-storage project which entered commercial operations in May this year, as reported by Energy-Storage.news.

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