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Published on February 9th, 2015 | by James Ayre


1st Utility-Scale Solar Energy Project In East Africa Now Online — Rwanda’s Total Grid Capacity Surges 6%

February 9th, 2015 by  

The first utility-scale solar energy project in the whole of East Africa — Gigawatt Global’s 8.5 megawatt (MW) solar project at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village — is now online.

The completion of the project boosted Rwanda’s total electric grid capacity by ~6%. The project represents the first instance of a utility-scale project reaching financial closure and coming online under the Africa Clean Energy Finance program.

Gigawatt Global Rwanda

The $23.7 million solar energy project was officially brought online at a ceremony on February 5th. The ceremony was attended by important public figures, such as Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. James Musoni, and the Chief of Staff of the US Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation, John Morton, amongst others.

“Top quality developers like Gigawatt Global are the keys to success for President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative,” stated Elizabeth Littlefield, President and CEO of OPIC. “After OPIC provided critical early-stage support through the ACEF program, Gigawatt smoothly and swiftly brought the project online to give Rwanda enough grid-connected power to supply 15,000 homes. Gigawatt Global in Rwanda is a clear demonstration that solar will be a key part of Africa’senergy solution.”

The managing director and co-founder of Gigawatt Global, Chaim Motzen, stated: “Our project proves the viability of financing and building large-scale solar fields in sub-Saharan Africa, and we hope that this solar field serves as a catalyst for many more sustainable energy projects in the region. The speed with which this project was completed is a tribute to the strength of the Rwandan government’s institutions and their laser-focus on increasing Rwanda’s generation capacity as well as to the nimbleness of our team and partners which spanned eight countries.”


As mentioned before, this project was constructed on land owned by the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village — which was put together to support some of Rwanda’s “most vulnerable children orphaned before and after the Rwandan genocide.”

The agreement between Gigawatt Global and the Village is that the leasing fees provided by the project will be used to pay for some of the Village’s expenses. Gigawatt Global will also reportedly be providing solar energy technology training to some of the students at the Liquidnet High School on the grounds of the Village.

Image Credit: Gigawatt Global

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About the Author

James Ayre’s background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • BlueScreenOfDeath

    $23.7 million for 8.5Mw…

    So in round numbers – and please correct me if I’m wrong – that’s $3,000,000 per Mw, $3,000 per Kw, so $9,000 to produce enough juice boil the average kettle.

    When the sun is shining…

    Jolly good.

    Carry on.

    • And please correct me if I’m wrong – The cost recovery projection for solar as opposed to conventional fuel generation is approximately 30-35 years. And best scenario effective service life of commercial solar equipment is 20 years. More or less. Likely less in a tropical application.
      President Obama’s recommendation of glow in the dark soccer balls would likely be more effective.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “At $23.7m for 8.5 MW, that comes out at 2.79c per watt.”

      That is not a bad price for a first in the region project. It’s about $1/watt higher than current US utility solar which is a much more mature market.

      Your 20 year lifetime number is flawed. That’s a typical warrenty number, not expected lifetime. We have a 40 year old array going strong in Germany and multiple 30 year old arrays.

      According to the NREL panels manufactured post 2000 should degrade at a maximum of 0.4% per year. At 40 years they should be producing at least 84% of new.

      BTW, what’s the kWh price for electricity generated with diesel in that part of the world? My guesstimate, without doing a LCOE, would be that this site will be delivering electricity for under 10 cents per kWh.

      • Maurice

        In Kenya, the tariff for solar generated electricity is 12cents/Kwh, diesel can be as high as 30cents/Kwh

  • markushaefner

    this just can be MegaWatts

  • John Pollard

    As per James Wimberly response, (and the mathematics do work out), at $2.79 per watt, a 60 watt incandescent light bulb would cost you $167.40 per hour. Picture if there was a commercial or industrial load absorbing a 500 kW load that not only is billed on kWh, but for kW or kVA demand as well. At a wholesale cost of $2,788.23 per kW, at unity power factor, (kW=kVA), I hope they produce gold by the kilo or diamonds the size of baseballs. This is all in fun and probably very unlikely.

    I will speculate that this will tie into the National Grid, be subsidized by the government, and help maintain continuity of service for the people. When thinking of such projects as renewable energies, there are some people that tend to overlook the ancillary costs of a capital investment of this size and scope. Mostly in terms of loans and interest, maintenance, infrastructure, labor, and equipment.

    It is a great project and please understand that I am all in for renewable energies. In my opinion, think of all the costs involved for such projects and especially your return on investment. (ROI).

    My accept my apologies for rambling on as my passion is electricity and the use and conservation of this invaluable commodity.

    • Isaac

      Your calculation is SERIOUSLY flawed because the System or Solar Plant will last at least 25years, so that should be factored into your calculations. The 8.5MW will be produced yearly for over 25years so it is a different calculation.

  • mustery

    8.5 Gigawatts? That would be 17 times more than the topaz power plant i California, and probably increase the grid in Rwanda many times over. Still, 8.5 Megawatts is pretty impressive.

  • jburt56

    Excellent, let the ramp up accelerate!!

  • JamesWimberley

    At $23.7m for 8.5 MW, that comes out at 2.79c per watt. An extraordinary price, given that Rwanda is 1400 km from the nearest port at Mombasa, with no continuous railway, and it’s the first solar plant in the country.

    • Ronald Brakels

      But their economy has been well manged over the past serveral years and it is good to see they have done well with the price of this project. This bodes well for future projects in Rwanda and the region, as it’s much harder to pad prices when people can point to a much cheaper project in a nearby country.

      Australia is paying $2.28 US a watt for the 56 MW Moree solar farm which will be our fourth solar farm or something in a country developed country with plenty of solar experience. Yes, I know this makes no sense at all when our rooftop solar averages under $2 US a watt. (I think this may be some kind of consession to electricity distributers, giving them green power they can profit from.)

    • Maurice

      That is the first calculation I did and was amazed at how expensive the project was priced! Anybody in utility scale will agree that on the higher side up to 2.2/watt is fair enough. I do lots of Self consumption and grid proposals in Kenya and it averages 1.8 – 2.0/watt.

  • Will E

    love the video, this is what it is. more more more.

  • EnergyInsight

    Congratulations. I assume that’s 8.5 Megawatts (MW not Gigawatts).

    • Ronald Brakels

      Yes, more than twice Australia’s total PV capacity in one go would have been quite a development. We’d be like, “Gosh darn it! Now Rwanda’s beating us!”

      • Isaac

        The Gigawatt is the name of the company – Giggawatt Global.

        • Maurice

          Gigawatt Global’s 8.5 megawatt (MW) solar project ……………lol. Can be confusing if you don’t pay attention to the words.

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