French utility Engie‘s Ausar Energy regional subsidiary will deploy eight hybrid solar systems in Gabon after an agreement was signed with local financial institution Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC) the company reports.
The plants will power eight mini-grids across the country and will have a cumulative capacity of 2.2 MW, supporting individual projects of between 65 kW and 895 kW in size.
The systems will supplement diesel generators with solar arrays. By adding PV, project developers seek to lower diesel use, reducing costs, noise, emissions and the logistical nightmare of transporting the fuel to remote villages.
Construction of the systems will start in December and full commercial operations are set to begin by the final quarter of next year. Engie and Ausar will be responsible for the construction and local energy and water company Société d’Ènergie er d’Eau du Gabon (SEEG) will operate the sites.
Solar power sold directly to locals
SEEG made a request for hybrid solar plants to improve regional power supply, so Ausar Energy developed a technical and economic proposal with CDC whereby the finance institution will rent the systems to SEEG, which will operate them and sell electricity to local customers.
Engie told pv magazine there is a possibility of introducing a second phase to the project to install batteries at some locations.
Off-grid or mini-grid solutions are a viable option to bring electricity to rural areas in the developing world. The market for this segment is estimated to reach $64 billion by 2030.
There are 1 billion people without access to electricity, the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa and reports suggest off-grid solutions would be the cheapest way to bring electricity to around 70% of the world’s unconnected people.