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WhyAfrica’s Hawks eye is on renewable energy in West Africa.

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Renewable energy sources are gaining traction in West Africa. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

18 April 2021 – Renewable energy is gaining traction in a host of West African countries with Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso and Cameroon (amongst others), all starting to invest in solar, wind and hybrid systems. WhyAfrica’s Hawks Eye is on renewable energy in West Africa as Burkina Faso announced the development of a new, large-scale renewable energy plant in March.  

The West African country of Burkina Faso will get a new, large-scale renewable energy plant. Located about 250km south east of the nation’s capital city of Ouagadougou, near the town of Pâ, the new solar energy plant will supply all the electricity it produces to Burkina Faso’s national power utility, La Société National D’électricité Du Burkina Faso (Sonabel).

The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), a member of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) is lending the project’s developer, Urbasolar, 80% of the capital needed for the construction of the new 30 MW facility. EAIF is the sole lender to the project, providing €29-million of the estimated €35.4-million development cost. Financial close (the transfer of funds from lender to borrower) is expected by the second quarter of the year.

The benefits of sunshine

According to Paromita Chatterjee, an Investment Director at EAIF’s managers, Ninety One, says that by harnessing Burkina Faso’s sunshine to improve its future prospects will bring many benefits to the country and make an important contribution to fighting global warming. “This project is a perfect example of how EAIF’s public private partnership model can have lasting economic, social and environmental impacts while mobilising private capital and enterprise to create new infrastructure,” says Chatterjee.

EAIF has now supported 20 renewable energy projects across Africa. It has invested USD350-million of loans to private sector developers, bringing Africa 825MW of clean, renewable energy.

Commenting on the project, Arnaud Mine, president of Urbasolar says that Urbasolar is conscious of its role in developing this energy source in Africa, notably in Burkina Faso, where they already operate. “It is Urbasolar’s conviction that the solar power sector offers solutions to numerous economic, environmental and social issues. Therefore, in addition to providing green energy, this project also includes a number of other measures such as education regarding solar technology, the provision of study grants and a microfinancing program for local women, as well as support for the healthcare system,” says Mine

Promoting private investment

“This project is the result of the willingness of the Burkinabé president, Rock Marc Christian Kabore, and the government to increase the country’s energy supply by promoting private investment through public-private partnership. We are pleased to be able to work alongside the government and the national energy utility, Sonabel, to reach the goal of generating 200 MW of energy via solar power plants by 2021, the strategy established by Dr Bachir Ismael Ouedraogo, Minister of Energy, Mines and Quarries.

Burkina Faso has a population of nearly 20 million people. Over 40% of people live below the poverty line. The country has one of the world’s lowest rates of electrification. Because of a shortage of installed energy generation capacity, Burkina Faso needs to import electricity from neigbouring states.

Urbanisation, structural changes to the economy and recent strong GDP growth have increased demand for energy. Currently relying mainly on fossil fuelled power stations, the country has embarked on a programme of attracting private capital and expertise to build renewable energy capacity. The Urbasolar project is one of the first of the new green energy plants. Around 280 MW is expected to be commissioned over the next three years. Urbasolar was selected as the developer following a competitive tender process run by Sonabel. Urbasolar will build and operate the plant and construction is forecast to be completed within 18 months.

Established in France in 2006, Urbasolar has installed over 650 PV plants and currently operates solar plants of over 900 MW. Urbasolar is provding 20% of the project’s capital. It is the majority shareholder in the Pâ facility. A minority stake is held by Project Production Solaire (PPS). Founded as a specialist renewable energy and energy efficiency business in 2010 by a group of Burkinabé engineers, PPS operates in Burkina Faso as well as Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin.

In July 2019, Urbasolar was acquired by AXPO, a Swiss utility and Switzerland’s largest producer of renewable energy.

The Burkina Faso plant is a ground-mounted photovoltaic power plant with a total peak power of 29,967.84 KWp. The PV modules are installed on fixed structures with an inclination of 15° and oriented south. The project includes string inverters and monocrystalline modules. The plant will be connected to the grid via a 2km cable to a nearby sub-station.

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