|This article does not cite any references or sources. (July 2009)|
Livingstone Falls (French, Chutes Livingstone) — named for the explorer David Livingstone — are a succession of enormous rapids on the lower course of the Congo River in west equatorial Africa, downstream from Malebo Pool in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Livingstone Falls consist of a series of rapids dropping 900 feet in 220 miles (270 metres in 350 km). They end in Matadi in Bas-Congo. The Congo River has the second largest flow rate in the world after the Amazon, which has no falls or rapids (except near its sources). The lowest rapids of Livingstone Falls, therefore, are the world's largest waterfall in terms of flow rate — provided one accepts these rapids as being a waterfall. An interesting aspect of the 220-mile (350 km) long Livingstone Falls is the width of the channel. The channel is very narrow: in several stretches the channel width is less than 300 metres and for the majority of the length the channel is less than 800 metres wide. This is an extraordinarily narrow channel since the river flow rate typically exceeds 42,000 cubic metres per second (1,500,000 cu ft/s).
"Grand Inga" proposed hydroelectric project
Inga Falls on Congo River is a group of rapids (or cataracts) in the latter portion of the Livingstone Falls. The Congo falls ~96 metres within this set of cataracts. The mean annual flow rate of the Congo River at Inga Falls is ~42,000 cubic metres per second. Given this flow rate and the 96 metre fall it is easy to calculate that the Inga Falls alone has a potential to generate ~39.6 GW of mechanical energy and nearly as much electrical energy.
Inga "Falls" is currently the site of two large hydro power plants and is being considered for a much larger hydro power generating station known as Grand Inga. The Grand Inga project, if completed, would be the largest hydro-electric power generating facility on Earth. The current project scope calls for the use of a flow rate ~26,400 cubic metres per second at a net head of ~150 metres; this is equivalent to a generating capacity of ~38.9 GW. This hydro-electric generator would be more than double the current world record holder, which is the Three Gorges facility on the Yangtze River in China.
Grand Inga is slated as a quasi “Run of the River” hydro project in which a “small” reservoir will be created backing the river so that the net head for the hydro turbines will approach 150 metres. The design could be made more environmentally friendly by more aggressively using the "run of the river" concept. A possible approach might be to use is a larger flow volume with lower head so that the reservoir size could be minimized and yet the available energy would be nearly as large. At 100 metres of head and a flow usage of 40,000 cubic metres per second, for example, the available energy is ~39 GW. t 102 metres of head is available over a straight line distance of ~15km from just upstream of the Inga Falls, at Sikila Island, to just below the Inga Falls where the river turns hard to the South. As the debate over the Grand Inga project heats up such an approach may become more palatable.