A solar power project set to be commissioned soon in Rwanda will make a significant contribution to the country’s power sector.
The first utility-scale solar PV project of the African nation will have a generation capacity of 8.5 MW, and will boost Rwanda’s installed power generation capacity by more than 7%. That is a substantial achievement for a country in which less than one in five homes have access to electricity.
The project will be implemented through international assistance as it has been developed by Dutch company Gigawatt Global and Norfund, the Norwegian investment fund for developing countries. Norwegian company Scatec Solar has provided engineering, procurement and construction services for the project.
The Rwandan government hopes to increase electricity access from current 18% to about 50% by 2017. Solar energy projects can play a critical role in achieving this target. With high solar radiation, the country has a huge potential to set up solar power projects and solar heating systems. Significant opportunities in the off-grid sector also exist that can potentially help rural population gain access to electricity.
In order to provide at least 50% of the people with access to electricity, the current installed capacity would be required to be increased by about five times to 560 MW. Renewable energy sources such as geothermal energy can also play a critical role in increasing the country’s installed capacity. The northern and western provinces of the country may hold up to 500 MW of geothermal power capacity.
Cost of fuel consumption in the country is estimated at $40 million, which had put an excessive subsidy burden on the government. In such a case, renewable energy sources, for which fuel cost is virtually nil, stand to play a major role in shaping the country’s economic future.