Power woes to ease with $20m solar project

Rwanda is stepping up investment in solar energy with a utility-scale solar plant following the signing of a $20 million deal this week to build the facility outside Kigali.

The 10MW solar photovoltaic plant, to be constructed in Kayonza District in Eastern Province, is expected to boost Rwanda’s electricity supply by 10 per cent as the country grapples with a widening energy deficit that is putting pressure on its economy.

Rwanda, which has a 0.25MW solar power plant that has been running on the national grid since 2007, is specifically targeting solar solutions as a lighting substitute for rural schools, health centres, hospitals and administrative offices.

The government signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with Goldsol II, an energy consortium, to construct the plant, which is expected to be operational by 2016.

Goldsol II is composed of three companies — TMM Renewables, incorporated in South Africa, Malta-registered Gesto Energy Africa and locally incorporated 3E Power Solar.

“The realisation of this project will not only contribute to increased access to sustainable, reliable, and clean power generation of about 10 per cent to the existing power generation, it will also serve an estimated 38,800 additional households vis-a-vis the 427,000 connections today,” said Valentine Rugwabiza, the Rwanda Development Board’s chief executive officer, at the signing ceremony.

While Rwanda has set a solar energy target of 20MW by 2017, its installed capacity, estimated at around 120MW (local), remains insufficient. This is supplemented by imports of about 14.5MW.

“The 2017 energy target is 563MW to allow for affordable access to power to cover most of the country by, 70 per cent, from the current 19.4 per cent,” Ms Rugwabiza said.

Early this year, the government signed a $24 million deal with an American-Israeli green entrepreneur, Yosef Abramowitz, to construct a 8.5MW solar project outside the capital.

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Run by Gigawatt Global, an American-Dutch solar power firm, the project is set to be operational this year and is expected to boost electricity supply by eight per cent.

The plant will feed into the national grid under a 25-year power purchase agreement signed with the state-owned Energy Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA), which currently controls generation and distribution of electricity.

SOURCE: The East African