AFRICAN Green R e s o u r c e s (AGR), one of the country’s l a rg e s t f a r m input suppliers, in partnership with Agri Option Ltd (AOL), is next month expected to start building a US$2.5 million 2 megawatts (MW) solar farm in Mkushi district. The pilot project will culminate in the building of a 50MW facility in the Mkushi farm block.
In September this year, AGR announced that it will invest US$150 million with local farmers to develop an irrigation dam, a 50MW solar farm and expand existing silo capacity by 80,000 metric tonnes at AOL. AGR chairman Zuneid Yousuf said the solar farm will ensure continuous power supply to irrigation and other production processes which have been affected by load-shedding. Mr Yousuf said engineers from the global solar power firm Vico Solar are expected to visit the site of the proposed solar farm in Mkushi early next month to lay the groundwork.
“This smaller system will answer many assumptions that it will be critical for the larger utility scale plant, including soil conditions, Zesco wheeling requirements and network and sun irradiance,” Mr Yousuf said. He said consistent electricity supply is critical to the success of the planned establishment of a value addition chain of factories in the Mkushi farm block. Last week, Government approved the introduction of a Creditworthy Renewable Energy Intermediary Power Off-taker which will sit between Zesco Limited and independent power producers (IPPs).
The decision is aimed at assuring the investor community that their investme nt is sustainable and can be profitable. And Vico Solar technical director Hugo Stewart said a recent study done locally revealed that the 2MW ground mounted hybrid system will cost between US$2 million to US$2.5 million.
“The operation of the solar plant during load-shedding will need to be carefully designed to protect the system,” Mr Stewart said. He said the system will be carefully designed to operate during grid unavailability, taking into account the critical power loads. The country, whose peak power demand fluctuates between 1,700MW and 1,900MW, has been trying to diversify its energy mix and Government is encouraging investment in alternative sources of energy like solar.
Zambia mainly relies on hydro power and currently has an electricity deficit of about 900MW because of low water levels at generation plants after a severe drought hit the country in the last rainy season. Zesco announced recently that load-shedding would be stretched beyond 15 hours a day. And as a short-term measure, G o v e r n m e n t h a s s t a r t e d importing power from Eskom of South Africa to minimise loadshedding. Severe drought linked to climate change has scorched across southern Africa and United Nations agencies have said a record 45 million people face