Throughout my writing career, I have always spoken about solar energy in Zimbabwe. I am still a huge advocate for the uptake and adoption of solar energy in Zimbabwe. With just solar energy alone Zimbabwe’s power woes can be totally addressed. It is apparent that one of the challenges is funding but the appreciation for solar energy is there. Even most individual homes, farms, and the like are seriously taking up solar energy. This is virtuous given how solar energy is regarded as clean, renewable energy. How much progress has been made in Zimbabwe regarding solar energy though? Let us look at some of the iconic solar projects in Zimbabwe right now.
Aside from the fact that solar energy is clean and renewable, the government is also offering attractive incentives. In 2020, the Government of Zimbabwe made a call for bids for 500 MW of solar power. There is the National Renewable Energy Policy. Once you cite your interest in this, your project is given a National Project Status label. You will also get a 5 per cent tax holiday for the first 5 years followed by 15 per cent afterwards. For projects of 5 MW and below, EIA requirements are relaxed. After all, that is where the world is headed. By 2025, it is projected that the global renewable energy industry will be worth over US$1.5 trillion.
Harava is constructing a 20 MW solar farm in Seke. So far, 6 MW has been completed and the firm is moving to continue towards the 20 MW mark. This project is projected to power up to around 45000 homes.
Nyangani Renewable Energy constructed a 2.5 MW solar power plant called Riverside Solar Power Station. This power plant went live in 2018 and actually feeds into the national grid. This was one of the pioneering independent power producers (IPPs) to enter the scene in Zimbabwe.
Hwange (Cross Mabale:Dete)
Not too long ago, Solgas finished the construction of a 5 MW solar farm. The next step is to add 10 MW and has since made applications towards that end. The solar farm sits on 100 hectares and the full potential is given the land space is 88 MW.
There is a Centragrid there which started feeding 2.5 MW into the national grid in August of 2019. Currently, they are working towards scaling up to 25 MW.
This is not the controversial solar project you have heard of before. Richaw Solar Tech is constructing a 5.5 MW solar farm there. Some of the solar panels are still to be put up but there is significant progress.
There is a solar power plant being developed at Dunavet. It will have a 5.5 MW capacity and the aim is to scale up to 20 MW in due course.
Chipinge – Tanganda
Last year in September, Tanganda finished the development of its own 1.8 MW solar power plant at Ratelshoek Estate. Currently, Tanganda is working on 2 additional solar power plants. One is at Tingamira (1.6 MW) and the other one is at Jersey (2 MW).
They have installed solar panels on their roofs with a capacity of 1 MW.
They are currently developing a 1.9 MW solar power plant through a local company called Sinogy. Their approach is different though; they are crowdfunding for the project. Interested investors can buy in using cryptocurrency.
They developed a 600 KW solar plant in Bhara Bhara. This output caters for roughly half of their energy needs.
Econet has a 100 KW solar power grid at their Msasa site. There are other companies with plans underway to construct solar power plants. Blanket Mine, PPC, RioZim, and Zimplats are some of them; Zimplats is aiming towards a 200 MW solar power plant.
It is vital to know that several of these projects were done by Distributed Power Africa (DPA), a subsidiary of Econet Global. They did the Econet one, Schweppes Zimbabwe, and Tanganda. When it comes to solar power adoption in Zimbabwe, DPA is centre stage.
As a nation, we have the capacity to generate at least 10000 GW Hours of solar energy in a year. That clearly shows you that we have barely scratched the surface. Access to funding seems to be one of the biggest challenges IPPs face. Investors are hesitant to pour in money due to murky monetary and fiscal policies in Zimbabwe. Thus getting offshore funding is an uphill task for most. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see considerable progress in the space.