New Coal-Fired Unit Operating at Zimbabwe’s Largest Thermal Power Plant

New Coal-Fired Unit Operating at Zimbabwe’s Largest Thermal Power Plant

The first of two 300-MW units being built as part of the expansion of a coal-fired generating station in Zimbabwe has come online. The Zimbabwe Power Co. (ZPC) said the unit began sending electricity to the national grid late on March 20.

ZPC in a statement said, “Power will be progressively fed into the grid until it reaches 300 MW.” The ZPC said it expects the second unit will enter commercial operation in October.

The ZPC is expanding the 920-MW Hwange thermal power station as part of a $1.4-billion upgrade to the facility. The Hwange station is the largest thermal power plant in Zimbabwe. It has four 120-MW units, and two 220-MW units, all commissioned between 1983 and 1987.

Sydney Gata, executive chairman of Zesa Holdings, at an event Monday marking the unit’s startup, said, “The synchronization [to the power grid] has been successful … we can gladly say we have a viable investment here.” Zesa (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) is a state-owned company that generates and distributes electricity in Zimbabwe.

Needed Upgrade

The Hwange plant has been plagued by frequent outages due to mechanical issues, which prompted the expansion plan to add Units 7 and 8. Chinese company Sinohydro is building the new units, and officials said 85% of the funding for the project is backed by China. The expansion project was first proposed in December 2015.

Zimbabwe, like other countries, has struggled to produce enough electricity to keep up with growing demand. Output from the country’s largest power plant—the 1,050-MW Kariba South hydro station on the Zambezi River—has been curtailed due to continued drought conditions that have limited the facility’s water supply. Kariba South’s generation is currently capped at one-third of its capacity.

Kariba South features six units commissioned between 1959 and 1962. Two 150-MW turbines were added in 2018.

Government officials in December 2022 announced incentive programs to support $1 billion of solar power projects planned by independent power producers in Zimbabwe. Those projects could add as much as 1 GW of generation capacity to the country’s power grid.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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