Burkina Faso is preparing to host large-scale solar parks with a combined capacity of 300 MWp in the cities of Kaya, Koupéla and Ouagadougou. Estimated at $370 million by the World Bank, the projects are expected to be successfully implemented, and not be disrupted by the coup d’Etat that hit the country last January, according to developers, the West African Power Pool (WAPP).
“Studies are underway and at this stage, the exact choice of sites has not yet been finalised. Studies are underway to determine the most appropriate sites to host these projects, taking into account the proximity of the regional grid and its absorption capacity”, said Bernard Hessou, Head of the Studies, Planning and Project Financing Division of the West African Power Pool (WAPP).
WAPP says the solar power plants in Kaya, Koupéla and Ouagadougou are expected to have a power generation capacity of 75 MWp, 75 MWp and 150 MWp respectively. The first two plants have an “under development” status and are expected to be formalised this year, while the Ouagadougou plant is “identified” and expected to be completed by 2031.
The limited influence of the Burkina Faso coup d’Etat
On January 24 last year, Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was overthrown by a military coup that placed Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba at the head of the country. This is a major event that may call into question many projects in the country.
“As far as the WAPP solar power plant projects are concerned, I don’t think that the coup d’Etat will call these projects into question”, says Issouf Zoungrana, Director General of the National Agency for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency of Burkina Faso (ANEREE). These words reflect the difficulties encountered in several Burkinabe solar projects, but do not seem to concern the WAPP.
The World Bank’s predictions
Concerning the technical aspects of the projects, the World Bank made a few predictions in the Burkina Faso – Solar Energy Access and Project report. One of the potential sites is located in Bissiga, 5 km from Koupéla, and the other in Dahisma, 8.4 km from Kaya. The solar parks should also have storage capacities that could amount to 300 MWh.
The World Bank Group estimates the cost of the Kaya and Koupéla solar farms at $370 million. The plants will be developed by the private sector through auctions, while the connecting infrastructure that will transport the electricity from the park to the national grid will be implemented through concessional or public financing.
The cost of connecting the plants to the national grid of the Société nationale d’électricité du Burkina (Sonabel) amounts to $11.3 million to link the Dahisma site to the national grid in Koupela and $14.7 million to connect the Bissiga solar park to the city of Kaya.
The creation of regional solar parks
The Kaya, Koupéla and Ouagadougou power plants are part of the ECOWAS West African Solar Energy Exchange (WASSEC). This is an energy exchange system that aims to bring together the electricity networks of States in a regional electricity market in order to ensure a regular, reliable supply of electricity at a competitive price. Hence, regional solar farms should help stabilise the grid by providing a significant energy supply. The presence of energy storage capacity becomes even more essential.
“At the community level [ECOWAS], the objective is the development of resources by country. In terms of resources, Burkina Faso is a country with a huge amount of sunshine, which is why it has chosen to turn to solar infrastructure. Burkina will import and export to other countries that need it [Mali, Benin, Niger, in particular via the North Core]. Today, this is part of the country’s reputation and will improve Burkina Faso’s energy supply”, said Ibrahim Belem, Technical Advisor to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Quarries of Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso faces a low rate of access to electricity and a very high cost of supply (estimated on average at $0.24 per kW, one of the highest rates in West Africa according to the World Bank). In 2020, 67.4% of the urban population had access to electricity as against 5.3% in rural areas, with the hope of achieving universal electrification by 2030.