Niger streamlines 20 MW solar project at diesel-fueled thermal plant

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Niger’s Council of Ministers has announced it has examined and adopted a draft decree declaring the 20 MW solar power station at Gorou Banda near Niamey, the country’s capital, to be of public utility.

The project will be realized at the diesel-fueled Gorou Banda thermal power plant, and is intended to diversify sources of energy production and reduce operating costs by replacing part of the diesel thermal generation with solar energy, whose cost is more competitive, the country’s cabinet stated. The development comes despite the fact the 100 MW power station was commissioned only in April 2017, and that around CFA75 billion ($132 million) was invested in it.

According to a document published by the World Bank at that point, the Gorou Banda diesel power plant was to provide enough power to meet expected demand for a five-year period – at a high generation cost – until cheaper options became available. The World Bank cites hydro, coal, or imported power from neighboring West African states as possible alternatives, and also mentions a plan to deploy 100 MW of PV capacity. “Two grid-connected solar PV projects – 30 MW in Gorou Banda and 30 MW in Guessel Bodi – have been identified and are under preparation,” stated the World Bank report.

Niger has a population of 20 million and an access rate to power of only 15%. The country’s installed generation capacity is only around 140 MW, and demand is covered mainly by electricity imported from Nigeria.

To increase the share of solar in the electricity mix, the French Development Agency in February issued a tender for the construction of a 22 MW solar-diesel hybrid power plant near Agades, the largest city in central Niger. The project will consist of a 13 MW PV plant, three 2 MW diesel power stations, a 5 MWh storage system, a 20 kV substation and two 20 kV lines with a length of around 3 km. The facility will be connected to the local power grid and will sell electricity to Niger’s state-owned utility, Nigelec.