This category refers to well-designed plants providing credible and reliable alternate power. The Project must be a utility-scale ultra-modern enterprise with efficient computer-controlled photovoltaic panels providing electricity to at least a hundred homes, and must have led to the creation of hundreds of jobs.


This category refers to well-designed plants providing credible and reliable alternate power. The Project must be a utility-scale ultra-modern enterprise with efficient computer-controlled photovoltaic panels providing electricity to at least a hundred homes, and must have led to the creation of hundreds of jobs.

"> Best Solar Design Project 2016

Best Solar Design Project 2016

PE News
Fri, 17-Jun-2016, 10:00

Gigawatt Global, Norfund and Scatec Solar  Rwanda

“Arise, shine for your light has come,” reads a sign at the entrance to the first major solar power farm in east Africa. The 8.5 megawatt (MW) power plant in Rwanda is designed so that, from a bird’s-eye view, it resembles the shape of the African continent. “Right now we’re in Somalia,” jokes Twaha Twagirimana, the plant supervisor, during a walkabout of the 17-hectare site. 

The plant is also evidence, not only of renewable energy’s increasing affordability, but how nimble it can be. The $23.7m (£15.6m) solar field went from contract signing to construction to connection in just a year, defying sceptics of Africa’s ability to realise projects fast.

The setting is magnificent amid Rwanda’s famed green hills, within view of Lake Mugesera, 60km east of the capital, Kigali. Some 28,360 solar panels sit in neat rows above wild grass where inhabitants include puff adders. Tony Blair and Bono have recently taken the tour. 

From dawn till dusk the computer-controlled photovoltaic panels, each 1.9 sq metres, tilt to track the sun from east to west, improving efficiency by 20% compared to stationary panels. The panels are from China while the inverters and transformers are from Germany.

The plant’s construction has created 350 local jobs and increased Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6%, powering more than 15,000 homes. All this is crucial in an economy that, 21 years after the genocide, is expanding fast and aims to give half its population access to electricity by 2017.

Twagirimana, one of five full-time staff on-site, said: “The Rwandan government is in desperate need of energy. In 2013 they only had 110 megawatts. They wanted solar to increase capacity.” 

The government agreed to a joint bid by Gigawatt Global, Norfund and Scatec Solar, backed by Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative. Construction began in February 2014 and was finished by July. “It’s the fastest project in Africa.” Its first year produced an estimated 15 million kilowatt hours, sending power to a substation 9km away, which has prompted mixed views in local communities. Twagirimana, 32, explained: “The neighbours say they want energy direct from here because they think it would be cheaper. It’s not true. We sell to the utility. Even our building gets power from the grid.”

The solar field is linked to a central server in Oslo and can be monitored remotely via the internet. Twagirimana believes it could be a template for the continent. “We have plenty of sun. Some are living in remote areas where there is no energy. Solar will be the way forward for African countries.” 

Blue Energy Ghana

Blue Energy is to build Africa’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant in a move which could spark a renewable energy revolution in West Africa. The giant 155-megawatt Nzema project will be one of the biggest in the world – only three solar PV plants in operation today are bigger. It will increase Ghana’s current generating capacity by 6% and will meet 20% of the government’s target of generating 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The Nzema project will be the first to go ahead under Ghana’s 2011 Renewable Energy Act, which set up a system of feed-in tariffs, and it is a success for the government’s policy of attracting international finance. Last month Energy Minister Joe Oteng-Adjei announced he was seeking $1 billion of private investment to help Ghana achieve its renewables target.

The US $350 million scheme, which will be fully operational in 2017, demonstrates Blue Energy’s ability to mount major projects in the region. The UK-based renewable energy investor and developer plans to develop further renewable energy power plants in West Africa and has a number of projects in the pipeline.

Chris Dean, CEO of Blue Energy, said: “Ghana’s forward-thinking strategy puts it in a strong position to lead the renewable energy revolution in sub-Saharan Africa. Nzema is a case study in how governments can unlock the huge potential for solar energy in Africa. We are delighted that it will make a strong contribution to the national economy, provide much needed generating capacity and help develop the skills of the future.”

He added: “There’s huge potential to develop renewable power in the region. We believe Nzema will show other countries what can be achieved and spur them to action.”
Blue Energy has secured all the consents it needs to go ahead with the project. Ghana’s electricity regulators, the Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, have awarded it a generation licence and a feed-in tariff for the plant’s 20-year operational life and the project has a power purchase agreement with electrical supplier ECG.

Blue Energy will now conclude discussions with a number of international financial institutions and global equity and infrastructure funds which have expressed interest in providing debt financing or investing in the project. It expects to reach financial close in the first half of 2016.

The site enjoys good solar radiation, has excellent access to the major road system and is within easy reach of a deep water port at Takoradi. The plant will be directly connected to the 161kV West African Power Pool transmission line, which runs alongside the site, linking Ghana to Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin and Nigeria, and has available capacity for its load.

Installation of more than 630,000 solar PV modules will begin by the end of middle of 2016 and electricity generation will start later the same year, with sections coming on stream as they are completed. The project is due to reach full capacity by late 2017. 

The project will boost the economy of Western Ghana. It will create 500 jobs over the two-year construction period and 200 permanent jobs in operation. It is also expected to stimulate another 2100 jobs in the local economy, by sub-contracting activities to local companies and increasing demand for goods, services and education.

The company has put in place a wide-ranging program to satisfy its corporate social responsibility obligations and enjoys extensive support from local communities. They will also benefit through land lease revenues, access to reliable electricity, new healthcare facilities, skills training, investment in schools, and support for community projects and small businesses. 

Nzema is expected to contribute US$100 million in tax to Ghana’s government over the lifetime of the project. Its clean energy will avoid emissions of 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 (based on an oil-fired power station with equivalent output).

Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, with 14.4% GDP growth in 2011. Demand for power is growing at 10-15% a year, but lack of reliable generating capacity has acted as a brake on the economy: power shortages are estimated to have cost 1.9% of GDP in 2006. Much of Ghana’s electricity is hydroelectric, but this is vulnerable to drought, and the country is increasingly reliant on expensive oil generation.

The government has set a target of more than doubling its installed capacity, from 2600 MW today to 5500MW by 2015. The Renewable Energy Act is a key part of this strategy and enjoys all party political support. The Nzema plant will be built by a subsidiary of Blue Energy, Mere Power Nzema Ltd, on a 183- hectare site close to the village of Aiwiaso in Western Ghana. It has secured a 50-year lease on the site, planning permission and permission to connect to the grid.

Today, 600 million Africans still don’t have access to electricity, particularly in rural areas. In far too many parts of Africa, night-time economic activities are practically non-existent. Women cannot make productive use of their time to carry out the most basic household tasks. Children who help the women cannot study at night without proper light and complete their homework by candle light, an additional expense for parents. Moreover, without access to electricity, over 3.5 million Africans die every year from harmful pollutants or fires in the home produced by costly and toxic solid fuels.

Rapper Akon

Electricity is more than light. This is a true change in our daily life”, A mother, Yelimané, village, Mali To meet these challenges, Akon Lighting Africa seeks to provide a concrete response at grass roots level to Africa’s energy crisis and lay the foundations for future development. Launched in February 2014 by international music star, Akon, leader Thione Niang and entrepreneur Samba Bathily, this initiative aims to develop an innovative solar-powered solution that will provide African villages with access to a clean and affordable source of electricity.

In less than one year, thanks to a private-public partnership model and a well-established network of partners (including SOLEKTRA INT, SUMEC and NARI), a wide range of quality solar solutions, including street lamps, domestic and individual kits, have been installed in 14 African countries.

As a result, a number of households, villages, community houses, schools and health centres located in rural areas have been connected to electricity for the first time ever. Local jobs, primarily for young people, have also been created in these communities, whether for installation of equipment’s or for maintenance.

The highly positive results observed since the start of the project show that a local presence and practical solutions are key to resolving energy issues in Africa. Akon Lighting Africa’s roadmap fully reflects its founding members’ vision for Africa: to deliver concrete results to populations.

Singer Akon, Samba Bathily and Thione Niang, co-founders of Solektra International, the company that launched the Akon Lighting Africa program, have just concluded a historic day in Bamako with the official inauguration of the Solektra Solar Academy. Expected to open in January 2016, this training center will be the first institute in Africa entirely dedicated to solar technologies. Appointed as Director, Patrice Dangang announced an ambitious program to train annually 200 skilled workers, technicians and engineers from all over Africa.

The courses will include both theoretical and practical classes meeting best standards and using t he latest generation simulation equipment. With a duration of 2 weeks up to 3 months, the different modules will focus on issues specific to the continent, such as the development of decentralized rural electrification systems. Some courses on the general dynamics of the solar market will also be proposed.

Trainees will acquire genuine technical expertise in a fast-growing sector. As explained by Akon, “solar technologies are now cost-effective and can be deployed massively to support Africa’s economic development. Our continent will thus be in the position to drive global growth in the near future.” The Solektra Solar Academy has already concluded partnerships with world-class institutions, such as the German electrical technology and training solution specialist, Lucas Nuelle .

SkyPower Global  Kenya

Kenya’s Energy Ministry and Canadian solar energy firm SkyPower Global  have signed an agreement Sunday that paves the way for the Toronto-based company to develop 1-gigawatt of solar power in East Africa’s biggest economy.

The developments will take place over five years in a deal that SkyPower values at $2.2 billion, the company said Friday in a statement.

Kenya currently gets about two-thirds of its electricity from renewable sources, chiefly hydropower and geothermal wells that account for 38% and 25% of supplies respectively, according to Bloomberg News Energy Finance data. It has no solar developments of that scale to date.

While the outlines of the agreement aren’t set, “We have an overwhelming interest from our investor base as well as from numerous banks, NGOs and development banks,” SkyPower Chief Executive Officer Kerry Adler said by phone Friday. “In this particular case, there are many avenues for financing these projects that are being reviewed by our finance team.”

Analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) were cautious about the lack of details. “The developers still need to find project sites, and others have struggled with land rights and grid capacity for much smaller solar projects in Kenya for years,” Nico Tyabji, an associate at BNEF, said by e-mail.

It’s the latest big announcement for renewables in Africa, which is increasingly getting big attention from investors. Africa is notoriously energy scarce, but he continent has the largest potential for renewable energy globally; most of it has yet to be exploited.

Kenya is making a big push in green energy – the country recently unveiled a $900 million, 310-megawatt wind farm in Lake Turkana, and received a $109 million loan from German development bank KfW to the Geothermal Development Company for the drilling of 20 wells at the Bogoria-Silali site

Chinese vertically integrated solar company Yingli Solar has entered into a joint venture (JV) with Namene Energy – a renewable energy developer focused on West Africa – to develop up to 150 MW of solar PV capacity in Ghana and neighboring countries.

The new JV, titled Yingli Namene West Africa, will be split 50/50 between the two companies, and will seek to develop 100 MW of ground-mounted solar farms in the West Africa region. A further 50 MW of commercial-scale rooftop projects are also planned using solar panels provided by Yingli.

All application procedures lodged during the development of the solar projects will be funded by the shareholders of the JV, which will explore financing solutions from banks and other lending institutions. Headquartered in Accra, Ghana, the JV has already begun developing its first large-scale project, Yingli confirmed.

The company’s chairman and CEO, Liansheng Miao, said that the JV marked Yingli’s first investment in renewable energy projects and continued its downstream expansion into new and emerging markets.  The JV partner Namene was praised for its experience and knowledge of developing renewable energy projects in the region, added Yingli Europe’s head of commercial Ralph Schneider. "Our JV with Namene is expected to deliver significant synergies and value across the development and installation of large-scale solar projects in West Africa.

"These transactions will provide clean, reliable and affordable energy to a country with strong demand for power generation capacity to support further economic growth. By joining forces we can consolidate our downstream pipeline well into 2017 and beyond."


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