Large Solar Plant Coming to West Africa
Mali has signed an agreement with Oslo-based renewable energy specialist Scatec Solar to build West Africa’s first industrial-scale solar plant. The plant will be built near the southwestern city of Segou and has a life expectancy of 25 years.
According to Scatec Solar’s website, the company is “an integrated independent power producer, aiming to make solar a sustainable and affordable source of energy worldwide. Scatec Solar develops, builds, owns and operates solar power plants and delivers power from 219 megawatts in the Czech Republic, South Africa and Rwanda.”
Mali’s energy minister, 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.”
In recent years, Mali has been plagued by chronic electricity outages. In 2013, the government reported that it was only able to supply 45 percent of its 16 million people with electricity.
But with the addition of this solar plant, the problem of electricity shortages will be solved. The plant is expected to produce enough electricity each year to power 60,000 family homes, while cutting annual carbon dioxide emissions by 46,000 tons.
It has been reported that Mali’s EDM-SA energy company, two thirds of which are owned by the states and one third of which is owned by the Aga Khan group, is in crisis. It is failing to ensure an adequate supply of electricity, despite state subsidies worth 87.7 million euros in 2013.
With this new solar plant, Scatec will own 50 percent of the Segou plant while the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation will hold 32.5 percent, leaving the remaining equity to local power partner Africa Power 1.
Scatec Solar will construct the plant and will also provide operation and maintenance services after the plant is connected to the electricity grid.
The chairman of Africa Power 1 SA and General Administrator of Scatec Solar West Africa SA, Dr. Ibrahim Togola, said, “Today’s event is historic because Mali now becomes the first country to install the largest solar grid connect 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.”
By tapping into the available sunlight, sunlight that is available almost all day, citizens in Mali will be able to use this clean and free energy. It will also have a positive impact on the air by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Although solar panels are expensive at the beginning, the reduction in electricity bills can be seen in about seven years after installation. With the large solar plant being built in Mali, homeowners do not need to pay the expense of private solar panels.
Hopefully, the solar plant in Mali is a test run for the effectiveness of solar electricity in West Africa and is something that will soon be present in the rest of Africa.
– Kerri Szulak
Sources: Africa Renewal Online , Phys.org, Scatec Solar
Photo: Aspire Africa