Supporting Hydropower in Zambia: A century-old legacy and a new chapter

A large fixed cone valve from Orbinox will soon be installed in Africa's oldest hydropower station, the Mulungushi Power Station.

At the AVK Group, we are proud of our rich heritage, particularly through Glenfield Valves in Scotland. Glenfield has been supplying valves for hydropower projects since 1900 (at least), with its first project in South Africa over 120 years ago.

Building on this legacy, in September 2022, we were approached by WestGlen Consult (Scotland) and Scatec (Norway) in their role as consultants to Lunsemfwa Hydro Power Company (LHPC), Zambia's first independent power producer, with a project at the Mulungushi Power Station.

Located near Kabwe in Central Province, Zambia, the Mulungushi Power Station is the oldest hydropower plant in Africa. It was formally opened in 1925 and is fast approaching its centenary. The project site is the dam for the station's main reservoir.

The Mulungushi project involved an existing installation: an old needle valve in a free discharge application, connected to the end of a 130m long tunnel through the dam with a bore of 1600mm. The client was clear that they did not require an in-line solution. Instead, a fixed cone valve solution would be more appropriate. This would allow them to maintain or even improve discharge levels, thereby maximising the flow range available for the downstream Mulungushi Hydropower plant.

The project had specific requirements, including:

  • Maximum operating pressure – 23m water column
  • Minimum net head - 2.7m water column
  • Design pressure – 60m water column
  • Atmospheric discharge, hood required
  • Discharge back into natural river course
  • Electrical actuation for sleeve – 24V DC
  • 4-20mA Position sensing required

Our recent supply of Fixed Cone Valves to the Marovanyati Dam (2x DN900) and Lake Mutirikwi (2x DN1100) hydropower station in Zimbabwe, not far from the Zambian project location, provided regionally relevant references. Additionally, our extensive local experience, with a significant number of AVK valves installed in Zambia for various water supply applications, strengthened our position.

The new valve is part of a suite of upgrades designed to optimise control and responsiveness of the Mulungushi station. These enhancements will enable the station to meet a range of demand levels, including responsiveness to peaking market opportunities. Lunsemfwa Hydro Power Company is currently undertaking projects to increase its renewable footprint in Zambia and this upgrade will provide the potential to regulate future solar PV, paving the way for a first solar-hydro hybrid system in the country.

Local support and global product reach

Our ability to send a service engineer from AVK South Africa to supervise the valve installation in this critical application was a key factor in securing the order for a DN1600 Fixed Cone Valve from AVK’s factory in Spain, Orbinox.

As we moved into the final phase of the ordering process, Orbinox introduced their project manager to the client, ensuring a smooth transition from the sales/procurement phase to the operational execution of the order.

This marked the beginning of a new chapter in our long-standing commitment to supporting hydropower projects in Africa.

The above images show the Mulungushi Power station under construction. The fixed cone valve in use is from another project to show the function. Furthermore, a photo of the first ever valve delivery from Glenfield to Africa, which was a hydraulic turbine inlet valve to South Africa in the year 1900.

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Utilising the water flow to cope with local power shortage

In a recent project in Zimbabwe, fixed cone valves from Glenfield Invicta have been delivered to a new hydroelectric power station.