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The Cross Mabale solar project in Hwange, West of Zimbabwe.


Zimbabwe’s Hwange solar plant expansion on cards

The Hwange plant, which is connected to the national grid, has a capacity of 5 MW, which is enough to power about 10 000 households.

Zimbabwe’s Solgas Energy (SolGas) has mooted plans to construct the second phase of its Cross Mabale solar power plant in Hwange, West of Zimbabwe. The company plans to add a further 10MW to the existing output capacity. 

The Hwange plant, which is connected to the national grid, has a capacity of 5 MW, which is enough to power about 10 000 households. The second phase of the project will increase the capacity of the Matabeleland North Province based solar plant to 15 MW.

The third phases are expected to add another 15 MW to give the station a combined output of 30 MW. In addition to the Cross Mabale project, the renewable energy firm is constructing power plants and residential solar systems in Chiredzi, Bulawayo, as well as in the capital Harare. 

In an interview this week, SolGas Energy co-founder and chief finance officer Tafadzwa Mundicha said the target was to become a key player in Zimbabwe’s energy transition.

“At 5MW, we are saving the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe circaUS$1,5 million per annum. We want to increase output to 15MW. We will complete the second phase in the next 12 months.

In line with the government’s devolution agenda, we plan to set up a power plant in every province as we seek to ease the electricity shortages in the country as well as turn SDG7 into reality,” he said. 

SolGas is an independent power producer (IPP) licensed by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) for a total of 15 MW Solar PV technology. It was established in May 2015 and subsequently registered in October 2015. 

Mundicha said SolGas partnered with Old Mutual Investments Group (OMIG) in November 2017 and has so far invested about US$7,3 million in the phase.  

“We initially looked for foreign investors but their conditions were stringent as most sought sovereign guarantees and were putting a huge political risk premium on the funding, which forced us to look for local institutional investors. 

“We were accorded Prescribed Asset Status by the ministry of Finance and Economic Development, which opened up pension funds and insurance companies as potential investors. OMIG hence acquired a 49 percent stake in SolGas,” he added. 

Under the first phase, SolGas has also built a new 28km 33KVline from its site at Cross Mabale in Hwange to Dete substation to try and stabilise the grid and reduce potential downtime — as the grid in that part of the country is now dilapidated. SolGas Energy’s Cross Mabale 5 MW plant is the country’s biggest IPP-developed solar project to be connected to the grid to date. 

The first phase of work was carried out by South African companies Soventix SA, Excess Africa, and Proconics. The power is sold to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission & Distribution Company under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

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