By Archie Chirimudombo
A pilot US$400 million solar project to be carried out early next year by Defemme Afrique Holdings – a joint venture between De Opper Trading and Green Rhino Energy, a power firm run by German solar experts – is expected to help ease the country’s power shortages as well as create job opportunities for locals.
In the next ten years, the project is expected to contribute a total of 2 500 megawatts to the national electricity grid. The Marondera solar farm will supply 150 megawatts to the national grid while the other 2 350 would be channelled from a number of sites in different parts of the country that have been identified by the company.
Defemme Afrique Holdings will invest $5,2 million for the first phase while $50 billion over 10 years is expected to be poured for the entire project.
The project, whose groundbreaking ceremony was officiated by Defence Minister Dr Sydney Sekeramayi and Marondera Central legislator Ray Kaukonde in July.
De Opper Trading chief executive officer Francis Gogwe revealed that the project will commence in January when they conclude the modalities required by energy regulatory authorities and the government.
“The Zanu PF has been supportive and as De Green Rhino Energy, we value that support. At the moment, we are now waiting to get an operating license from the Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Authority (Zera) which regulates all forms of energy sectors to bring uniformity to regulation of the industry.
“In the past few months, we have been liaising with the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement which will also give us Development Permit. We will then attach those two documents to our project document together with our proposed power purchase agreement.
“Once in full force, the project will create employment opportunities for local people. We will also play a role in infrastructural development in the area and load shedding could become a thing of the past.
“We will start by channeling 50 megawatts to the grid because the authorities said that’s what can be sustained by the grid capacity. With time, we will rehabilitate the electricity infrastructure in the area so as to enable it to carry an additional 150 megawatts which we have targeted,” he said.
Green Rhino Energy Managing Director Joachim Baumgaertner said his company was pleased with their partnership with De Opper Trading and expressed hope that the project will go a long way in helping Zimbabwe overcome power shortages.
He said: “The relevant authorities have been supportive of this project and I have confidence that it will produce the results. In this particular project, we will also see more attractive applications of clean energy, for instance solar in combination with food production, desalination plants or off-grid electrifications of remote villages.”
Green Rhino Energy is a specialist consultancy advising on a broad range of issues in clean energy from technology to financing renewable energy projects, with a particular focus on solar energy. The company is currently involved in project development of large-scale solar and waste-to-energy plants in a number of countries in Africa, among them South Africa, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.
Recently, Cabinet endorsed the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset), a policy document which they hope will will guide economic turnaround. Its guiding tenets are improving social services and poverty reduction, physical infrastructure and utilities, food security and nutrition as well as value addition and beneficiation.
Infrastructural sectors primarily focusing on power generation were identified as key drivers of projected growth targets. The infrastructure and utilities cluster will spearhead the powering of all government buildings with solar before 2015 while stabilizing the country’s power situation.