GIS Mapping of Hydropower Resources in West Africa

GIS Mapping of Hydropower Resources in West Africa
GIS Mapping of Hydropower Resources in West Africa
GIS Mapping of Hydropower Resources in West Africa
GIS Mapping of Hydropower Resources in West Africa

The ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency kicked-off on the 16th of March, 2015 together with Pöyry Energy GmbH, the project which seeks to map the hydropower resources for all the river basins in the ECOWAS region. The project is promoted by ECREEE under the context of the Small Scale Hydropower Program (SSHP), which was adopted by the ECOWAS Ministers of Energy in October 2012. The results will be one of the first data sources on small hydro power potential in the ECOWAS region. The Web-based GIS mapping of hydropower resources will facilitate open knowledge sharing on SSHP aspects through the ECOWREX. All results will be integrated into ECOWREX so as to increase the information available for users in the map viewer and the country profile section. The provided data and contents will be utilized by stakeholders in ECOWAS region for supporting the identification and implementation of hydropower projects in the ECOWAS member states.

ECREEE is contributing with this project to the existing challenges for the hydropower development in the region that are reported in documents such as the World Small Hydropower Development Report 2013 (Liu, H., Masera, D. and Esser, L., eds. 2013. United Nations Industrial Development Organization; International Center on Small Hydro Power):

(…) the small hydropower future seems promising in the Western Africa region. A sustained effort is required to achieve this position, which includes more feasibility studies where necessary, country level studies with small hydropower plans (…), but the small hydropower developers in the Western Africa sub-region face many challenges. For example, there is a lack of hydrological data in the countries making it difficult to give comprehensive and updated overviews (…); therefore, regional expertise in hydro resource assessments is poor.

In response to the challenges, governments of West African countries are already implementing some strategies, (...) such as the establishment of the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) in 2010.

Small scale hydropower schemes have attractive potentials for project developments in the ECOWAS region but the search of specific exploitable sites requires a series of data which is not always available and when available there is concern about the reliability of data. Therefore, ECREEE wants to support the creation of reliable hydrological databases by initiating hydrological measurements campaigns or by motivating partner stakeholders to start measurement activities. For this reason the GIS Mapping tool shall identify promising geographical areas and river sections for the future development of small scaled hydropower projects. In such areas / river sections measurement campaigns shall be started.


ECREEE called for proposals in July 2015 and selected Pöyry Energy GmbH. After signing the contract in January 2015, the project  started with the collection of gauge stations data. The inception meeting organized by ECREEE during the second week of March provided the opportunity to ECREEE and Pöyry to discuss all the questions and contents in relation with the project management, project development and project implementation.

First, Pöyry Energy GmbH will develop a river network which will describe all river reaches relevant for small scale hydropower development with respect to topology and topography. Secondly, a regional water balance model will be developed to determine the mean annual discharge and the mean monthly discharge for each node of the river network. Finally, the theoretical hydropower potential and specific hydropower potential of each river reach will be determined. Moreover, a classification of the river reach with respect to suitable size and type of hydropower plants as well as suitable electromechanical equipment will be made.

For the development of the project, Pöyry will require using different kind of data and from different sources, such as: Digital Elevation Models, climatological data and runoff data from gauge stations. Additionally, ECREEE and Pöyry will join forces to raise awareness of the project in the region through the adoption of different communication strategies with identified stakeholders.

In a first stage of the project, the hydropower for the Volta river basin will be calculated. In the second phase of the project, the rest of the five bigger river basins will be considered for the hydropower calculation. At the end, the rest of the 15 small river basins in the ECOWAS region will be considered. It is expected to have all the results of the project by July 2016, and they will be available on the ECOWREX GIS Map Viewer by the end of the 2016.

Moreover, ECREEE contracted also the service to develop a CLIMATE CHANGE LAYER. This layer will show the impact of climate change on the Hydropower Potential in West Africa. To develop this layer, ECREEE is using the last free available CORDEX data models for West Africa.

Expected results:

Different GIS layers will be created for their integration into the ECOWREX. They will display the main results (in particular hydropower potentials) for each of the 15 ECOWAS countries. Furthermore a comprehensive text summary report will be preapred describing methodology, assumptions, main findings and the accuracy of the results.

  • Layer with climatic zones: a map showing the relevant climate zones in the basins of interest.
  • Layer with single river channels in the selected river basin: a number of hydropower parameters such as the hydropower potential and the specific hydropower potential will be generated. Both attributes will be assigned to the reaches of the river network.
  • Layer with subareas: catchment areas.
  • Power generation potentials of subareas in GWh or in TWh
  • Suitability of subareas for plant sizes
  • Suitability of subareas for various plant types
  • Suitability of subareas for various types of hydropower machines
  • Updated layer of existing small, medium and large hydropower plants in the ECOWAS region
  • Layer showing the impact of climate change on the Hydropoer potential

Find more information and resources HERE