Uganda has placed itself on the map of countries like India embracing solar energy, as it has launched the largest solar plant in East Africa.
The Soroti Solar plant located on 33 acres of land in Soroti District, is made up of 32,680 photovoltaic panels, and has an output of 10 to 12 megawatt. The facility is the country’s first grid-connected solar plant and is expected to generate clean, sustainable electricity to 40,000 households.
It said the power plant has the potential to increase its net output capacity by a further 20 megawatt of solar energy. According to the World Bank, Uganda currently has an 18.2 percent electrification rate.
Costing $19 million, the Soroti plant was developed under the Global Energy Transfer Feed-in Tariff (GET FiT), a dedicated support scheme for renewable energy projects managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank in partnership with Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA) and funded by the governments of Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and, partly, the European Union (EU).
The solar plant overtakes the solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, the 42-acre power plant shaped like the African continent, which has a capacity of 8.5 megawatt.
The dependency on electricity through poor infrastructure has made blackouts routine in most African countries as the bulk of power plants and transmission facilities were built in the 1950s and 1960s. During droughts and even regardless, countries that depend on hydroelectric power generation, switch to generator sets, thus reducing productivity, higher costs in terms of industrialisation and many households are left in perpetual darkness at night.
According to New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), it is estimated that no more than 20 per cent, and in some countries as little as 5 percent, of the population in Africa (excluding South Africa and Egypt) has direct access to electricity. This figure falls to 2 percent in rural areas.
Africa is often considered and referred as the the continent where the sun’s influence is the greatest. According to the World Sunshine Map, Africa receives many more hours of bright sunshine during the course of the year than any other continent on earth.
Solar power is seen as one way Africa can reduce its energy gaps, as about 600 million people still lack the connection, and those figures are worse in East Africa.
The commissioning of the Soroti solar power plant comes at a backdrop of the threat of climate change and the Paris Agreement signed by countries to reduce their emissions.
Morocco is building the biggest solar farm in all of Africa
Morocco's 160 MW concentrated solar farm, Noor 1, was only the start. When the African nation is done, Noor 1 will be joined by three more similarly-sized power plants which will generate a whopping 500 MW of renewable energy. That's enough to power 1 million homes, or about half of the country's residences.
The $9 billion Noor project is located outside the city of Ouarzazate on a stretch of land roughly the same size as Rabat, Morocco's capital city. "We are not an oil producer. We import 94 percent of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and that has big consequences for our state budget," Morocco's environment minister, Hakima el-Haite, told the Guardian. Additionally, Noor 1 alone is expected to reduce the country's greenhouse emissions by up to a quarter million tons a year over 25 years. And, when Noor 2 and 3 come online in 2017, both of which can store solar energy for up to 8 hours, the entire Sahara region will have access to uninterrupted solar-generated electricity 24/7.
Scatec to build first large scale solar plant in West Africa
An historic agreement to Build-Own-and Operate West Africa’s first utility-scale solar power plant was signed here today by Norwegian company Scatec Solar and its partners, the Malian Ministry of Energy and Water and Electricité du Mali (EDM), the electricity utility of Mali.
To be located near the ancient city of Segou in South-East Mali, 240 kilometers from Bamako, the 33 MW solar project is being developed in partnership with IFC InfraVentures and the local developer Africa Power 1.
Speaking on the occasion, the Malian Minister of Energy and Water, Mr. Mamadou Frankaly Keita said “This landmark agreement signals the Government’s commitment to meet the nation’s growing energy demand and to provide clean, renewable and affordable energy to our people”.
T agreements include a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between EDM and Segou Solaire SA, the local project company controlled by Scatec Solar, for the delivery of solar power over the next 25 years. The PPA with the utility is complemented by a Concession Contract with the Government of Mali, granting license to Segou Solaire to operate.
With this PPA, Scatec strengthens its position as the leading, integrated solar IPP (Independent Power Producer) in Africa. The Oslo-headquartered company’s CEO Raymond Carlsen says “This project is another great milestone for Scatec Solar. After several years of development efforts in the region, we can now move forward with the first utility-scale solar plant in West Africa. The Malian Authorities have demonstrated decisive will to tackle the nagging issue of power supply.”
Scatec Solar (‘SSO) will own 50 percent of the power plant and World Bank’s project development fund, IFC InfraVentures will hold 32.5 percent, while the local project development company, Africa Power 1, headed by Dr Ibrahim Togola, will hold 17.5 percent. Scatec Solar will construct the plant, and in addition provide operation and maintenance services after the plant is connected to the grid.
“One of the pillars of the World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy for Mali is to increase access to energy, a development fundamental. IFC InfraVentures’ partnership with Scatec Solar and Africa Power 1 helps advance this strategy through Scatec Segou, part of a series of renewable energy projects we are developing in the country,” said Alain Ebobisse, Global Head of IFC InfraVentures.
Dr Ibrahim Togola, the chairman of Africa Power 1 SA and General Administrator of Scatec Solar West Africa says: “Today’s event is historic because Mali now becomes the first country to install the largest solar grid-connected power plant in the region. This high profile joint-venture in which Malian citizens participate will serve as a model to launch the solar era in West Africa”.
Annual production from the 33 MW solar power plant is estimated to be 60,000 Megawatts hour (MWh). The ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) solar plant will deploy approximately 130,000 PV modules on a fixed tilt system and will connect to an existing transmission line. This will provide clean and affordable energy to a country in dire need for more power generation capacity to support further economic growth. The power generated from the plant represents five percent of Mali’s total electricity consumption, equal to the electricity consumption of 60,000 households.
During the construction phase, the project will provide 200 local jobs. As part of Scatec’s corporate philosophy, special emphasis will be put on transferring technical expertise to the local community.
In an era of climate change concerns, the 33 MW Segou power plant is an important initiative to reduce carbon emissions by about 46,000 tons once completed. Scatec Solar and EDM will jointly register the project with the United Nations CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) under Scatec Solar’s program for solar projects in Africa.
The project with a total cost of Euro 52 million is to be financed through 45% senior project finance debt. IFC InfraVentures will arrange the Debt for a total amount of Euro 23 million. Further, the project has already been granted a concessional loan that will cover 30% of the Capex from Climate Investment Fund through the program “Scaling Up Renewable energy in Low Income Countries Program” (SREP). The remaining 25% is provided as equity by the project partners. Financial close is expected before the end of this year.