Japanese government agency funds $9.7m Nigerian solar project

A Japanese government agency has this week steered 980 million yen ($9.7 million) to the Nigerian federal government for the development of a 1.2 MW grid-connected solar PV plant in the country.

The funding comes via the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and will be used to construct a solar installation at the Usman Dam Water Treatment Plant, thus ensuring a stable power supply to the dam, which itself is a vital component in the local infrastructure.

Japan’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Sadanobu Kusaoke, remarked that JICA has been investing in infrastructure and power projects in the country for four decades, revealing that this is the 10th project that the agency has supported in Nigeria.

"Stable power supply is crucial to support industry and to improve the economy and lives of the people," Kusaoke added. Solar power, he said, can help Nigeria diversify its economy and boost its electricity generation capabilities.

The 1.2 MW plant will generate 1,496 MWh of clean power per year, resulting in an annual electricity bill reduction at the dam of approximately $93,800, according to JICA.

"The project is designed to introduce a demonstration unit of a solar electricity generation system with a view to increasing its economic strength on a sustainable basis," said JICA chief representative Hirotaka Nakamura.

Phase one, commissioned this week, tops out at 975 kWp, with the second phase of the solar PV system expected to be completed in January 2017, Nakamura said. "This is an elaborate project that will improve water supply to the residents of Abuja. It will also reduce the rate at which the dam consumes diesel to pump the water."

In recent months there has been stirrings in Nigeria’s long dormant solar industry, with Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading – a large, government-owned energy purchasing company – snapping up some 975 MW of solar PPAs issued in July.

Chronic power shortages have long bedeviled Nigeria, a country of more than 170 million people and less than 4 GW of electricity capacity. Hence, solar PV growth has long been seen as an affordable, scalable solution for plugging this huge gap in demand and production. However, a weak local currency and dearth of foreign currency in the country has made it near-impossible for foreign developers to bring in the required components to boost the solar sector.