300m solar plant for Vic Falls

HARARE - Southpole Consulting Private Limited (Southpole) has secured $300 million to construct a 125 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Victoria Falls.

SouthPole, which has made an application to the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) said the project has primarily been conceived for self-consumption and, in particular, to supply power to the company’s data centre and a commuter rail electrification project.

The facility may also sell power regionally through the grid to the local industrial district via private PPAs, since it will be located in the proximity (18 km) of the planned regional Zizabona inter-connector.

The inter-connector aims to increase energy trade between Zimbabwe, Zambia, northern Malawi and north-eastern Mozambique, where the company forecasts substantial aligned investment.

A special purpose vehicle for the project, SouthPole StalwartBuild Zimbabwe PL, has already been approved for $300 million of initial Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) investment by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA).

The financing will be used for the construction of the plant, ICT, road and rail infrastructures within the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone (Sez).

Southpole said it aims to build the plant as an independent power producer, with no direct support from the government or other local public authorities.

The company’s director Tendai Musasa said construction on the plant may begin in the second half of this year.

“We are already in talks with module and inverter providers, as well as with potential EPC contractors,” he said.

According to Musasa, in addition to the aforementioned regional power inter-connectivity, the Sez offers attractive tax incentives, which have enabled Southpole to attract international financing and technical partners.

The area — offering one of the highest solar irradiation indexes in a country with above average irradiation of 5,7kWh per square meter, per day — is poised to be a strong regional power interconnection platform, thanks to the upcoming 2 400 MW Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (Hes) and a planned 1 250 MW PV development for regional consumption over the next seven years, the company said.

The latest development comes after Econet Wireless was this week given a licence to generate power to meet the electricity and energy needs at its Willowvale premises in Harare.

The Willowvale complex is a major hub for Econet’s switching and network operations infrastructure.

Zera said the licence allows the mobile telecommunications giant to “construct, own, operate and maintain Econet Willowvale Solar plant for the purposes of generation and supply of electricity for ownconsumption”.

Econet is the largest mobile network operator in Zimbabwe, with several switches in Harare and Bulawayo, and over 4 600 base stations scattered around the country.

The telecommunications and technology company looks to have taken the lead in “going green” and adopting the use of clean energy at its office premises and key network infrastructure sites around the country.

A source within the company said the company had so far installed clean solar energy at over 75 sites, including an installation at its Contact Centre in Graniteside, Harare, which houses over 220 call-centre agents.

The source said work on deploying clean solar energy at its Msasa head office in Harare was scheduled to start anytime this month.

The licence comes at a time when Econet’s sister company, Distribution Power Africa (DPA), recently announced plans to invest $250 million in Zimbabwe, especially targeting new investments in the manufacturing and mining industries.

A senior DPA executive was quoted as saying their system could provide between 10KW and 10MW.

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