Construction begins on the largest East African solar plant

French clean energy firm Eren RE and the power project developer Access Power have broken ground on the 10 MW PV utility-scale solar farm in Uganda’s Siroti, 300 km northeast of the Ugandan capital Kampala.

There are a number of reasons for Uganda’s drive to develop solar power generation, a spokesperson for Access Power told pv magazine: “According to the World Bank, Uganda currently has an 18.2 percent electrification rate. Power generation is low in general, particularly in the Soroti region, which is one of the highest solar potential regions in the country”.

The demand for more energy is also down to the fact that in Uganda, as in many African countries, a large segment of the population is moving from the lower income bracket to the middle income, which raises demand for new services and appliances and requires an increase in power generation.

The spokesperson added that the power issue is high on the political agenda, and the leaders are being pressured to focus on increasing capacity and generation. That fact that the groundbreaking ceremony, held yesterday in Siroti, was attended by Uganda’s national dignitaries as well as local community chiefs, demonstrates importance of the 10 MW solar project for the country, which is relatively small on a global scale.

The tender for Uganda’s first PV farm launched in March 2014 with Germany’s KfW Development Bank managing the procurement process. The project is funded by the European Union Infrastructure Trust Fund, and supported by the governments of Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The Soroti project is the first solar power plant to be developed under the Uganda’s GET FIT facility, a support scheme for renewable energy projects set up by KfW and the Ugandan government’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA). The US$19 million solar PV is expected to be operational and connected to the national grid in July 2016, providing energy for 40,000 households.

According to the World Bank, Uganda currently has about 800 MW of installed electric capacity, mostly from hydro and thermal sources.