image: Gigawatt Global

by Szabolcs Magyari, Solarplaza

The need for energy and the abundance of sunshine provide strong justifications for adopting solar energy in Africa. The opportunities are rapidly becoming apparent as a range of international investors are planning and constructing large scale solar power plants in the region. Based on the announcement of the top 50 solar PV pipeline, Africa will witness an increase of more than 4 GW in installed solar capacity during the years to come. Our list of Top 50 projects under development comes in preparation for the two-day event in Nigeria during the 25-26 of April. The Solar Future Nigeria concentrates all major stakeholders in the country and addresses all forms of solar applications ranging from utility scale to pico solar.

While the number of PV plants under construction have decreased since our previous report due to completion, many projects have been announced since.

Top 10 Announced African solar PV projects

# Project Name Size* Country Developer Owner PPA Status Source
1 GEG – Grand Bara Solar Power Plant 300 Djibouti Green Enesys Republic of Djibouti, Green Enesys Electricite de Djibouti Link
2 - 135 Nigeria Nigeria Solar Capital Partners Gigawatt Global, European High Commission, World Bank CTF, Green Africa Power NBET Link
3 Kebbi 110 Nigeria Phanes Group & ABG Caps Phanes group NBET Link
4 Humera Solar PV Plant 100 Ethiopia - Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation - Link
5 Nova Scotia Power Plant 100 Nigeria Scatec Scatec Solar, CDIL, BPS, Novia Scotia NBET Link
6 Struisbult solar energy plant 100 South Africa - Mulilo Renewable Energy Ltd - Procedural Link
7 Gwanda 100 Zimbabwe Chint Electric Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) Procedural Link
8 Borno 100 Nigeria General Electric General Electric NBET Link
9 Niger 100 Nigeria General Electric General Electric NBET Link
10 Taraba 100 Nigeria General Electric General Electric NBET Link
* Sizes in MWp

Figure 1: Total installed capacity (in MW) of our Top 50 announced solar projects by country.

One of the main observations that can be deduced from the list of solar plants is that, similarly to our previous report, South Africa remains to be the most important market in terms of our biggest announced projects. This large number of announced projects might be subject to change in the future due to the high depreciation of the local currency. In second place is Nigeria as a result of its persistent push to meet its ambitious energy goals. Not only is there a tremendous need for the country to increase its energy supplies but the government also targeted clean energy sources to achieve this. 

The third largest PV focus is attracted by Egypt whose government has recently changed its strategy and opted for larger scale PV plants and fewer developers. This move has translated into several 50 MW projects on the horizon essentially kick-starting the local utility-scale PV market.

Although the list of developers is rather diverse, there are some that are especially involved in the African electrification process. One of the most prominent developers is norwegian Scatec Solar. As a result of the partnership with Norwegian private equity company Norfund, Scatec has planned to develop several plants in South Africa but it is not the only area of focus for the company. Scatec is among the few developers that concentrate on several countries for project development including Nigeria, Mozambique and Mali. 

Another significant developer in South African solar PV is global renewable energy company SunEdison (NYSE: SUNE; OTC: SUNEQ) which has been subject to much uncertainty after filing chapter 11 bankruptcy. Despite of the fact that its Yieldcos, TerraForm Power (NASDAQ: TERP) and TerraForm Global (NASDAQ: GLBL) were not included in the filing, seemingly distancing pending South African projects, it is unclear whether and to what extent SunEdison’s financial interests will be overtaken.

Figure 2. Number of solar plants within each size category for our Top 50 under development projects.

Figure 2. Number of solar plants within each size category for our Top 50 under development projects.

The significant interest in Nigeria is shared by Dubai-based solar developer, Phanes Group and American multinational conglomerate General Electric Co (NYSE:GE). The projects for the former will be developed by the Hasken-Rana joint venture whereas the latter will be developed by currently undisclosed parties. The companies have pledged to construct a number of large-scale PV projects that will aim to treat the energy crisis the country is experiencing and boost the local economy in due course. 

The number of planned solar PV plants, however are not the only thing that deserves attention in our list. The reported sizes of our top 50 announced PV list averages almost 75MW. While plants smaller than 30 MW did not make the list, projects of 75MW and 100MW are rather frequent. This tendency suggests the benefits of the economies of scale that can be achieved by developers given the ideal conditions.

In conclusion, the electrification of Africa has not only become a necessity for the region’s economic development but judging by the increased interest of international owners and developers solar has become financially competitive as well. 

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