The Iranian and Azerbaijani officials have agreed to move ahead with the construction of dams and hydropower plants on the border river of Araz, which were recently liberated from Armenia's occupation during the Second Karabakh War.
Plans for the new plants, known as "Khudafarin" and "Qiz Qalasi" (meaning maiden tower in Azerbaijani), were approved during the third meeting of the technical working group of Iran and Azerbaijan. Construction operations were reviewed by technical experts from both countries, as well as representatives from Azerbaijan Amelioration and Water Farm Company and Azerenerji, the leading power generator and distribution company in Azerbaijan, according to ISNA news agency.
“Following these agreements, the process of implementation and operation of 'Khudafarin' and 'Qiz Qalasi' dams will accelerate and in the near future, the people of the two countries will benefit from the joint use of water and energy resources of these dams,” the head of Regional Water Company of Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province, Yousef Ghaffarzadeh said.
He added that the Khudafarin dam is one of the largest earth-fill embankment dams in the northwest of the country with the capacity to hold 1 billion 612 million cubic meters of water on the Araz River. The dam's regulated water volume is 2 billion cubic meters, with the aim of supplying 1 billion cubic meters of water to Iran annually.
Other functions of the dam, which is now 95 percent complete, are flood control, development of aquaculture and fisheries, and production of 550 MWh of electricity annually.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said last December that the Khudafarin dam can feed "two hydropower plants with a total capacity of 280 MW of electricity."
Speaking about the Qiz Qalasi dam whose construction completed by 90 percent, Ghaffarzadeh said that this dam has been constructed with the aim of supplying the required water of the Khudafarin irrigation and drainage network, with annual electricity production of 270 MWh.
The Khudafarin dam is located 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) west of Khomarlu in the East Azerbaijan Province, Iran and 14 kilometers (8.7 mi) southwest of Soltanlı in Azerbaijan's Jabrayil District. Armenia occupied the area in 1993, during the First Karabakh War, but on 18 October 2020, the Azerbaijani forces retook control of the dam.
In August 2016, the Iranian MPs approved a bill on joint construction of two hydropower plants with Azerbaijan, on the Araz River near Iran's town of Marazad and Azerbaijan’s Ordubad. The document calls for cooperation on the construction of power plants at the Khudafarin and Qiz Qalasi dams, as well as the construction of the Marazad power plant on the Iranian side, and the Ordubad power plant in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which is a landlocked exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The electricity networks of Azerbaijan and Iran are connected through five existing electric power transmission lines - the 330 kV Mugan, 230 kV Imishli and 110 kV Astara-Astara transmission lines, owned by Azerenergy OJSC, and the 132 kV Araz-Araz and 132 kV Julfa-Julfa transmission lines, owned by the State Energy Agency of Nakhchivan.