Solar comes of age as Uganda launches E. Africa largest solar plant
The first solar power plant to join Uganda’s main power grid was recently unveiled in Soroti district, Eastern Uganda.
The new 10MegaWatt solar plant, owned by Access Uganda Solar Ltd, a partnership between Access Power and EREN RE is said to have cost US$19m to build.
Promoters of the project say it will generate clean, low-carbon, sustainable electricity to 40,000 homes, schools and businesses in the area.
Made up of 32,680 photovoltaic panels, the new 10 megawatt facility at Soroti comes hot on the heals of Rwanda’s first and biggest solar park; an 8.5MW capacity plant that was launched in 2015.
Although Rwanda’s project came in a higher cost of US$23.5m, compared to Uganda’s, the launch of the two projects in a space of just two years points to the growing importance of Solar as a viable option for generating power in Africa. In recent years, the cost of solar panels has dramatically fallen, thanks in part to China’s huge investments in the sector. Now experts predict that not before long, the cost of Solar could soon rival that of Hydro-generated power.
The Soroti Solar power project was developed under the Global Energy Transfer Feed in Tariff (“GET FiT”), a dedicated support scheme for renewable energy projects managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank in partnership with Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA).
It was funded by the governments of Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union. The GET FiT programme helps renewable energy sources become more affordable and therefore more accessible in Eastern Africa.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Uganda’s Minister of State for Energy, Ambassadors from the EU, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as key stakeholders from Access Power and EREN RE; TSK, the contractor who built the plant; FMO and Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) (www.PIDG.org) company The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) as financiers, and other key officials.
European Union Head of Delegation to Uganda, Kristian Schmidt hailed the launch of the solar project as a result of a mixture of positive government policies and a conducive natural environment for solar power development.
Ambassador Schmidt said: “Uganda is a good place to invest in solar energy. The regulatory framework is conducive and Government rightly recognises Uganda’s energy future must be renewable. It is great that this is now triggering private sector interest in solar power generation. The European Union is proud that our grant contribution ensures the realisation of the Soroti Solar Plant, and I hope this is only just the beginning for many more to come.”
The ERA Chief Executive Officer, Eng. Ziria Tibalwa added: “We are so proud of this outcome of our stable and favourable regulatory environment that has produced such a leading project in the East African Region. We congratulate Access Solar and the people of Uganda upon this milestone.”
David Corchia, CEO, EREN RE, stated: “Soroti solar plant is an excellent textbook example of how collaboration among key local and international stakeholders can result in the successful execution and completion of such a ground breaking project and in tangible progress in the spread of renewable energy across Africa. We wish to express our gratitude and thanks to the organizations and individuals who made the construction of the largest solar power plant in East Africa possible. As a global renewable energy Independent Power Producer we take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the African power sector and we look forward to replicating this model in many other African countries in other districts in Uganda and across the region.”