African Record Breaking Solar Project Underway

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Two leading renewable organisations have been declared as highest bidders for a utility-scale renewable project in Zambia. It was announced that French renewable energy firm, Neoen S.A.A, and First Solar Inc, were awarded the 47.5 megawatt (MW) solar power project by Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) today. The project was awarded at a tariff of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), the lowest rate ever seen in sub-Saharan Africa.

The project – the first to be developed under the World Bank’s Scaling Solar program – is part of Zambia’s first utility-scale Independent Power Producers (IPP) scheme for solar energy. Scheduled to be completed by mid-2017, the facility will be located in the Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone and the IDC will retain a 20 percent stake in the project. The energy generated by the facility will be supplied to ZESCO, the state-owned utility company, under a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

The power plant, named after Zambia’s West Lunga National Park, will cover an area of almost 129 acres, equal to approximately 73 soccer pitches. The project will displace the need for 125 million liters of water that would have been consumed by conventional generation, because solar PV does not require any water to generate energy.

“Neoen is very proud to bring solar power to Zambia at such groundbreaking prices. We believe that solar energy can further accelerate Zambia’s growth, and we are ready to develop a whole portfolio of reliable, competitive solar plants across the country,” commented Xavier Barbaro, CEO of Neoen.

The plant will be powered by approximately 450,000 high performance First Solar modules, which offer up to six percent more energy in Zambia that conventional crystalline silicon PV panels. This is a direct result of the modules’ superior temperature coefficient, which translates into higher energy yields in warm climates, and their spectral response which allows them to generate more energy than conventional crystalline silicon panels, in humid conditions.

“By partnering with Neoen and First Solar, Zambia stands to gain from over 14 gigawatts of global renewable energy experience. And it is this combined experience that will deliver a world-class power generation asset,” said Nasim Khan, First Solar’s Vice President of Business Development for Africa. “Significantly, this project shatters the misperception that low cost energy cannot be delivered with high quality, high performance modules.”