Zimbabwe plans 300 MW solar PV project

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The energy and power development minister of Zimbabwe has announced today plans to develop a 300 MW solar PV project consisting of three separate plants costing a combined total of US$250 million.

Discussions about the plants are currently in the early planning stages, said the minister, Munacho Mutezo, who revealed that the government is hoping to soon finalize the tenders for the three projects.

"The ministry and indeed the government are working on medium- to long-term projects," said Mutezo. "We are looking at projects where we will be able to generate power using solar PV as we seek to ease the power outages that strike the nation."

Mutezo stressed that the projects are unlikely to be completed before 2016 at the earliest. "Each unit will generate 100 MW of solar PV," he said. "Just to give you an idea of the size of these units in physical terms, the solar panels will have to cover an area of more than 200 hectares.

"The costs involved are also very high, in the region of $250 million for the entire project. We hope that once we finalize tenders, it should take us 12 to 18 months to have each unit fully up to speed."

Zimbabwe’s grid has suffered from power outages daily for the past decade, with the country’s largest power utility – Zesa Holdings – struggling to raise to required capital to invest in a new power station. Daily demand for power ranges between 1.9 to 2.2 GW, yet the grid can generate 1.19 GW on any given day. Mutezo confirmed that, alongside the ministry’s solar aims, the government was also exploring the possibility of adding a utility scale wind farm to Zimbabwe’s energy grid.

"As a ministry, we are aware of the need for clean, renewable energy, and we are supporting it," continued Mutezo.

Late last year, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), was commissioned by the government to develop a feed-in tariff (FIT) policy for the country, aimed at boosting greater private sector power generation from renewable energy sources.