On Friday the 29th of November Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited commissioned its 1 MW solar plant. This comes after the manufacturing company got a 25-year license for generating power earlier this year. That was in July, to be exact and the license was issued by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA). This license effectively gave them permission to build a  1MW solar plant at their Willowvale premises. What that means is that they can now generate power for their own operations. This is the solar plant in question that was completed and commissioned last Friday – took only 5 months to complete (June to November).

The Solar Plant Project

You might be interested to know that this has become the largest rooftop solar-powered plant in Southern Africa (excluding South Africa). In essence, this makes it the biggest in Zimbabwe. So already you have noted that the solar panels were installed on the roofs. This is actually ingenious because it eliminates the cost of having to look for a piece of land, support structures plus a whole lot of other costs. Putting them up on roofs ultimately involves lower costs than otherwise. The project cost a total of US$2 million. Let us look at some specifics so that you get an idea of how huge this project is. Almost 2450 solar panels were installed. Total annual power generation for the project stands at 1560 MW.

Schweppes entered a partnership deal with Distributed Power Africa (DPA). DPA is a company that specializes in the building and installation of solar plants. They usually use a working arrangement where they do the setup and the client pays over a period of time. In this case, Schweppes will honour its dues through monthly instalments spanning over 15 years. It is noteworthy to mention that DPA has actually installed some rooftop solar systems in the country before. One example is at Econet in Willowvale – a 466 KW solar power plant.

Energy Minister Encourages Adoption Of Solar Power

During the commissioning of the plant, Advocate Chasi underscored the large solar power capacity in the country. He pointed out that if properly harnessed, as much as 100 GW of solar power can be generated locally. He then gave allusion to the fact that our local peak demand is 1800 MW. That is just a tiny speck in comparison to 100 GW. Effectively this means there is vast untapped solar energy in Zimbabwe. This calls for more and more investors to get involved in renewable energy initiatives such as solar energy.

Growing Interest In The IPPs Space

Earlier I indicated how that government is welcoming players interested in becoming independent power producers (IPPs). Already we have talked about Schweppes which applied for a license, got it and recently commissioned their solar plant. Other players who have expressed interest and submitted applications to ZERA are Zhenje Solar Park Private Limited and Lumigar Solar Private Limited. Lumigar Solar has plans to build a plant with a capacity of 65 MW Chegutu (Cactus Hill Farm to be specific). Zhenje Solar Park intends to build a solar power plant in Seke. For these two players it different from Schweppes which is going to use the solar power generated for its operations. Zhenje Solar Park and Lumigar Solar will sell the power they generate to Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC).

Companies and businesses should take advantage of the liberalization of generating power in the country. The government saw this expedient owing to the incessant power challenges. There is supporting legislation in the Electricity Act that gives room for one to be an independent power producer (IPP). Right now it is being prioritized more than ever before no wonder the liberalization. Though initial setup can be costly, the long term benefits are well worth it. After all, entering partnerships with companies like DPA can lessen the financial burden. Consider Schweppes, they will no longer struggle as before because they can now produce their own power for their business operations. Normally their maximum demand is 1.5 MW on a day to day basis – thus being able to produce 1 MW of that is a huge feat.