Zimbabwe: 25MW Solar Project to Be Commissioned

Jun 23, 2022

The 25MW solar farm at Nyabira is expected be commissioned today by President Mnangagwa as the largest solar station in Zimbabwe and a sign that the Second Republic is taking solar energy seriously.

The upgrade of the Nyabira station from 2,5MW, used to establish the viability of the project, comes through a multimillion-dollar joint venture between the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) and a local solar company, Centragrid (Private) Limited.

The project, on a farm about 40km from Harare along the Chinhoyi Road, is part of NSSA's impact investments strategy geared at enabling economic development by investing in strategic areas such as renewable energy, agricultural value chain and infrastructure development, among others.

NSSA deputy director marketing and communication, Mr Tendai Mutseyekwa, yesterday confirmed the commissioning and that the President was scheduled to conduct the ceremony.

In an earlier, statement Mr Mutseyekwa said the solar project between NSSA and Centragrid, fits within their strategy of augmenting Government's efforts towards enhancing social protection for Zimbabweans by providing them with more access to power.

"Apart from that it makes business sense for NSSA because the demand for energy currently outstrips supply so this investment will yield dividends to the authority, for the benefit of its members, who include pensioners and other vulnerable groups.

"In essence, we are talking of a smart partnership between NSSA and Centragrid in providing clean energy to surrounding communities and the nation at large.

"As a custodian of national savings, NSSA is obliged to invest proceeds in a manner that grows the fund to guarantee its sustainability," said Mr Mutseyekwa.

A solar station has the capital costs associated with the panels, but the operating costs are very low since the fuel is free.

This makes it similar to hydro power and different from thermal stations where capital costs are lower, but coal has to bought every day.

NSSA's investment strategy aims to stimulate economic development, employment creation and protection.

Zimbabwe can easily use a lot of solar power since Zesa can store energy. Kariba South Power Station is oversized for the water available. It was extended to give Zesa the flexibility of coping with peak power demand, when all eight generators can be spinning, but seeing these cut down to one or two generators when demand is low, so meeting the water rationing.

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What solar stations coming onto the grid means is that Zesa can cut back during bright sunshine, storing more of tis daily water ration, and thus run more generators at Kariba South at other times. In effect Lake Kariba coupled with an oversized power station is the world's largest storage battery.

The commissioning comes after the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12, challenged nations to abandon fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy.

President Mnangagwa was among the 140 Heads of State and Government and climate lobbyists that discussed issues of environmental protection through the promotion of clean energy, among other initiatives.

African and Latin American countries rejected the call to immediately ban the use of coal saying they needed time and financial support to gradually phase out coal.

Rich nations then pledged US$100 billion annually to finance poor countries' migration towards clean energy.

The Nyabira project started generating 2,5MW, which can light up about 700 high density houses, in August 2019. The 10-fold increase in output means 7 000 high density houses can be supplied.

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