Zambia is set to construct a solar panel plant worth US $15m in bid to address the ongoing electricity shortages caused by low water levels in Kariba Dam and obsolete equipment at Hwange Thermal Power Station.
Chinese firm, Yaowei Technology has partnered with the country for the development whose phase one will sit on a one hectare piece of land. Yaowei Technology director Mr Cheng Hangjian said that feasibility studies are being done to seek more investment opportunities especially in renewable energy to ease power shortages.
“Zimbabwe has enough resources to turn around the fortunes of the economy, but there is need to invest in research to tap the available investment opportunities. The current power outages require both the public and the private sector to play a part in addressing the challenges,” said Mr Cheng.
Solar panel plant
The plant upon completion will produce about 500 solar panels per day to augment power supply in the county and will also help in creating job opportunities for the locals.
Despite Zimbabwe’s great potential, power outages and energy poverty are still widespread. 63% of the population has no reliable energy access, reaching 90% in rural areas, according to Sustainable Energy for ALL Initiative.
The country has been faced with energy challenges since the late 2000s, which saw massive power outages around the country of up to 16 hrs a day. The country relies on a carbon intensive model to generate grid electricity for both the industrial and household sectors.
About 43% of the country’s electricity supply comes from burning coal, while 57% of the country’s supply comes from renewable energy, specifically hydropower systems. High cost of solar equipment mainly because it’s imported has prevented citizens from harnessing solar energy. However recent efforts to revive the economy have seen an increase in electricity demand across all sectors of the economy.
This increase in demand has to be met in other ways, with Zimbabwe importing diesel generators to meet the gap when the local grid is unable to supply sufficient electric power. Cummins, Perkins and Baudouin powered units are premium brands, but many Zimbabweans purchase smaller cheaper units, which don’t have the same lifespan as the more premium products, ultimately costing them significantly more, but with the economy still struggling, what choice do they have? Additional issues include smaller units often provide inferior electrical performance, which can lead to mounting costs when the AC Alternators output damages customers equipment. The best diesel generator brands are often quieter and better choices.