Ethiopia aims for 300 MW of solar energy

U.S. company Green Technology Africa (GTA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) for the development of 300 MW of solar power in the country.

Following significant investment in hydroelectric, wind and geothermal power generation projects, Ethiopia is set to invest a further $600 million in solar power generation, according to GTA.

EEP has declined to provide further details of the agreement or about the planned project.

GTA, however, said it applauds the Ethiopian government for "supporting organizations that have been launched internationally by Ethiopians that have acquired years of training and professional expertise overseas and choose to return home to go with local specialists to demonstrate best practices and solutions for a greener Ethiopia."

GTA President Dereje Mesfin told Ethiopian newspaper The Reporter that the company would seek project financing from the U.S.’ Power Africa initiative, launched by President Barak Obama in 2013 with the aim of doubling the number of people in Sub-Sahara Africa with access to power.

The Virginia-based GTA says solar development in Ethiopia will be a welcome addition to the national grid. The country, which has nine dams that provide close to 2 GW of electric power capacity, is making an aggressive drive to boost capacity from more sources, including wind and solar, in a bid to expand national electricity coverage to 75% by next year. The country currently has a total coverage of 55%.

As part of the agreement, GTA is to set up turnkey projects in the cities of Dire Dawa, Kombolcha and Desse following a feasibility study on the identified areas. The company has already sent a pre-feasibility study to the EEP and to the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE). GTA expects to begin the project in six months.

A 2011 study by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) shows that Ethiopia has a huge solar power potential, especially in the western and eastern lowlands, which receive a high density of irradiation. Ethiopia’s solar market is still at an early development stage with an estimated installed capacity of just 5 MW. Demand is especially high in off-grid areas which constitute 80% of the country, according to the GIZ study, GTA notes.

GTA provides engineering consulting and management services for transmission, distribution, industrial and generation clients.