The first of its kind in East Africa, Uganda has launched a solar facility that has connected 10MW of electricity from solar to the national grid. The project, a carpet of 32,680 photovoltaic panels, is located on a 33 acre piece of land in Aloet, Soroti District. It is expected that the solar power station will supply to 40,000 homes, schools and businesses in the area. The power plant has the potential to increase its net output capacity by a further 20MW of solar energy.
The project is owned by Access Uganda Solar Ltd, a partnership between Access Power and EREN Renewable Energy. It is a fruit of a partnership between private sector players, development agencies and joint development initiatives involving KFW, A German development bank, FMO, A Ducth Development Bank, the governments of Sweden, Norway, UK, Germany and the European Union in Uganda.
The project was developed under the Global Energy Transfer Feed in Tariff (“GET FiT”) a donor supported scheme for renewable energy projects managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank in partnership with Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA) and funded by the governments of Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Speaking at the launch, Kristian Schmidt, European Union Head of Delegation in Uganda said: “Uganda is a good place to invest in solar energy. The regulatory framework is conducive and Government rightly recognises Uganda’s energy future must be renewable. It is great that this is now triggering private sector interest in solar power generation. The European Union is proud that our grant contribution ensures the realisation of the Soroti Solar Plant, and I hope this is only just the beginning for many more to come.”
The US$19 million (Ushs 340 billion) Solar Plant was financed by a mix of debt and equity with the senior debt facility being provided by FMO the Netherlands Development Bank, and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF).
The owners of this project signed a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (UETCL), the state-owned utility company in September 2015 to commit to absorb the power.
Uganda currently has about 850MW of installed electric capacity, mostly from hydro and thermal sources. According to the World Bank, the country has a paltry 18.2 percent electrification rate.
In Africa, the Soroti project is only second to South Africa’s Solar Capital De Aar launched in 2013 with an installed solar power capacity of 175MW. The biggest single solar power generation facility in the world is India’s Kathumi, in Tamil Nadu, with an installed capacity of 648MW. However, the world’s biggest solar power capacity is at the twin Chinese installations at Longyangxia with a capacity of 850MW.
Solar energy from hugely available sunlight is a clean and sustainable energy whose potential has to date been underexploited in Uganda, and the East African region.