New 41 MW solar plant planned for Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is one of the African countries that had made some solar noise in the past, with the hope of fixing a vast energy supply deficit in the country, however, not many of the proposed solar plans have come to fruition. The most recent planned development could buck that trend, as a private company has generated USD 80 million in funding for a utility-scale project.

TD Energy, which is owned by the former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, is the company that has received regulatory permission approvals from the Environmental Management Agency, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority to proceed with the construction of a 40.8 MW PV plant in the country, according to local media. It is hoping to begin construction on the plant in Norton next year, and is expecting it to take 56 weeks to complete.

One potential hurdle was whether the plant would be compliant and complimentary to the already over-stretched power grid in the country, but the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), who will buy the power generated at the plant, have given it the all-clear to be connected to the grid. TD Energy will be investing a total of USD 80 million in the project, and has secured the funding from an unnamed foreign partner.

In 2013, the country said that it planned to embrace renewable energy, and would introduce feed-in tariffs (FITs) for power generated from renewable energy sources. However, there was little follow-up news of the FIT, so it is unclear when one was ever introduced.

A year later, in 2014, the government announced plans to develop a 300 MW solar project, consisting of three separate plants, which would be open to tender. Fast-forward another year and JA Solar revealed that it would be supplying modules for one of the 100 MW plants that would make up the development, with construction planned to begin sometime towards the end of 2016.

The project is being developed by ZTE, Intratrek Zimbabwe, and China MCC17 Group, however it is unclear exactly how close the consortium is to beginning construction, or when it might be completed. With any solar developments moving very slowly within the African country, it remains to be seen when the newest solar plant will actually get underway.