Swaziland to construct 100 MW solar farm

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The tiny southern African country of Swaziland is preparing its first foray into the world of PV, having announced its imminent plans to build a 100 MW solar farm on public land.

The PV installation will be built by Services Global L Power Swaziland (SGL Power), who have entered into a PPA with the Swaziland Electrical Company (SEC), to supply clean electricity to the SEC for 25 years.

It is estimated that the total project cost for the installation will amount to US$185 million, reaching a planned electricity output of 100 MW. The plant, which will be located on 300 hectares of land near to the town of Manzini, will be a ground mounted installation that will be connected to the nearest SEC grid.

Completion is expected by September 2014, with first-year power per unit predictions set to rise exponentially each year based on a per unit spread of seven years. One of SGL Power’s shareholders, Johan Koekemoer, said that their commitment was to pass on their savings to the energy customer, stating that operational and maintenance costs are expected to be kept low.

"This makes the ultimate delivery of power sensitive to additional costs associated with the production, especially in the initial stages of operation," Koekemoer said. "SGL Power entered into initial negotiations with the Swaziland Investment Authority (SIPA) to explore the possibilities to obtain approval for a range of incentives to reduce the operational costs of the company and allow for the best possible energy tariff."

A solar surge

Once complete, the 100 MW solar farm will supply more than 50% of Swaziland’s energy needs. Currently, SEC owns four hydro power stations that possess a collective capacity of 60.4 MW of clean power, but the solar move is seen as something of a game changer.

In a country with exceptional solar radiation levels, and inspired by the impetus shown and appetite for solar on display in neighbouring South Africa and other African nations, large-scale solar investment has been long overdue in Swaziland. Hamstrung by power shortages and a reliance on its neighbours for power, Swaziland’s leaders believe solar power lights the path towards energy independence, which could bring a whole host of positive ramifications for the country’s economy.

"The benefits of the production of power with no fuel cost will be evident for the period of 25 years during the expected minimum lifespan of the power plant," added Koekemoer. "PV is a clean, sustainable, renewable energy, which reduces the adverse anthropogenic impacts of fossil fuel use."

Construction on the plant is expected imminently, with the first batch of power expected to be produced within the first four months. Full production, according to SGL Power’s predictions, is expected within eight months.

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