The Batoka Gorge hydroelectric project is planned to be developed on the Zambezi River. Image courtesy of JackyR.
The Batoka Gorge hydroelectric project is being undertaken by Zambezi River Authority (ZRA). Image courtesy of Bgabel.

Batoka Gorge Hydro Electricity Scheme (BHES) is a 2.4GW hydroelectric project located across the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe, on the Zambezi River, approximately 54km downstream of the Victoria Waterfall.

The project is being undertaken by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), an entity equally owned by the Zambia and Zimbabwe governments. ZRA will also be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the hydroelectric facility.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Zambia and Zimbabwe to develop the BHES project, in February 2012.

Construction on the £4bn ($5.2bn) project is expected to begin in 2020 and targeted for completion in 2026.

The cross-border hydroelectric facility is expected to produce 10,215GWh of electricity a year, which will be shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power station make-up

Batoka Gorge will be a run-of-the-river hydroelectric facility comprising a 181m-high and 720m-long roller compacted concrete (RCC) gravity arch dam, and two 1,200MW surface power plants on the north and south banks of the Zambezi River.

Each power plant will be equipped with six 200MW hydro turbines.

The reservoir will have a catchment area of 508,000km²2 and four intakes, which will take the water through 4.2km of tunnels to both the power plants to generate electricity.

The project will have a crest overflow type spillway with 12 radial gates. Each radial gate will measure 13m-high and 14m-wide. The design capacity of the spillway will be 20000m³/s.

Electricity transmission from BHES

The electricity generated at the Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power station will be transmitted to Zambia through one double-circuit and one single-circuit 330kV overhead transmission lines, and to Zimbabwe through one double-circuit and one-single circuit 400kV overhead transmission lines.

The 330kV double-circuit transmission line for Zambia will run 55km from the Batoka North Bank power plant to connect the Zambia Electricity Supply Company’s (ZESCO) new substation at Livingstone, whereas the single-circuit transmission line will stretch 170km power plantto the Muzuma substation in Choma.

Electricity from the Batoka South Bank power plant will be transmitted to Zimbabwe via a 70km-long 400kV single-circuit transmission line connecting the Hwange substation, and a 400km-long double-circuit transmission line connecting the Chakari substation.

Upon grid connection, the Batoka Gorge hydroelectric facility will strengthen the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), while providing reliable clean power supply at a competitive cost to both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Contractors involved

A consortium led by Power Construction Corporation of China (Power China) and General Electric (GE) was selected as the contractor for the Batoka Gorge hydropower project in July 2019.

Studio Pietrangeli was involved in carrying out the engineering feasibility studies for the project.

The environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the BHES project was conducted by the Southern Africa- based Environmental Resources Management (ERM).

A consortium of Ernst & Young Advisory Services, Tata Consulting Engineers, and Webber Wentzel has been engaged to provide transaction, financial and legal advisory services for the Bakota Gorge hydroelectric power station.