Egypt plugs 780 MW of Benban solar projects into grid

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Egypt has reportedly connected 19 of the 32 solar projects that make up the huge Benban Solar Park to its grid.

News agency Reuters on Monday reported Egypt’s Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation had announced the development, which concerned 16 of the huge park’s solar fields bringing 780 MW of generation capacity online with a further three projects connected and expected to supply 150 MW more capacity at some point this month.

pv magazine this morning contacted the ministry but was repeatedly put on hold and then cut off and has yet to receive a response to an emailed inquiry about the Reuters report.

The news wire, which carried the Benban report on its Zawya Middle East news portal, ran a separate story on Sunday confirming expectations that the entire site – reported in some quarters to be the world’s largest solar development – will come online this year.

Confusion over costs hike

With a final generation capacity of 1,465 MW – variously reported in some media as 1.6 GW and 1.8 GW – and a total investment value of EGP40 billion ($2.3 billion), the 14.4 sq mile site was in the news in February when Reuters reported the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company was preparing to impose a 25% hike in costs to investors, due to escalating construction costs.

pv magazine sources have confirmed investors have still had no notice of any such rise.

The latest Benban announcements may have been prompted by a two-day visit to Egypt this week by World Bank president David Malpass, which included a visit to the solar field in the Aswan governorate. The World Bank has reportedly plowed somewhere between $563 million and $660 million of investment into many of the projects that make up the project, via its International Finance Corporation private sector funding arm.