Sri Lanka strikes deal on 150 MW solar PV project

Sri Lanka has taken giant strides towards a solar future with the announcement this week that the country’s Board of Investment (BOI) has concluded talks with an Australian energy company to develop a 150 MW solar module manufacturing plant on the island.

Energy Puzzle Group has committed an investment of US$190 million to construct the plant in the country’s Mirijjawela Export Processing Zone in the district of Hambantota, located on the southern tip of the teardrop island.

Construction of the 8.5 acre plant is expected to begin shortly, with a completion date penciled in for early 2015. It is expected that the energy produced will largely be targeted for export to overseas markets, such as India, Japan and the Gulf states.

Energy Puzzle Group’s chairman, Patrick Featherson, has revealed that 150 MW is just phase one of the project, with the company eyeing further capacity expansions within the third year of the plant’s operation. "This is why we secured land to expand,” he said. “We hope the second phase will begin around mid-2016."

Construction and maintenance of the plant is expected to generate 150 local jobs, with many employees drawn from the immediate vicinity. For Energy Puzzle Group, this project is the company’s first foray into the Sri Lankan market.

"The BOI has created a conducive investment environment in Sri Lanka," added Featherson. "There is a very high level of education and engineering expertise in the country, which is highly underutilized. We feel that migrating into high technology, particularly in renewable energy technology, provides a good base for Sri Lanka for manufacturing, education and employment."

The location at Mirijjawela was chosen because of the new port that has been recently constructed there, revealed Featherson. "It is a deep water port and there are no deep water ports in the southern part of India. We feel that both bringing materials into Sri Lanka and within the new free port area, we will be able to manufacture and export quite quickly at low expense."

The Chairman of the BOI, Lakshman Jayaweera, issued the following statement: "This investment in the manufacture of solar panels is further proof that the BOI’s policy of targeting specific Australia companies is bearing fruit.

"Sri Lanka is now very much on Australia’s radar."