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Clean Power

21 MW Nkhotakota Solar PV Plant In Malawi Energized

Malawi, a southern African country with a population of about 19 million, has one of the lowest electrification rates on the African continent. Access to electricity is still below 20%. The majority of the population lives in rural areas and those with access to electricity in the rural areas are estimated to be around 1%. The country’s electricity company, EGENCO, has an installed electricity generation capacity of 442 MW. 391 MW is from hydro power plants and 51.4 MW is in the form of thermal power plants. EGENCO operates four hydro power stations at Nkula, Tedzani, Kapichira, and Wovwe.

Several projects have recently been implemented to boost the country’s installed electricity generation capacity. InfraCo Africa, JCM Clean Power Development Fund (JCM), and a local developer, Matswani, recently co-developed the 60 MW Salima Solar project. The PV plant is situated 75 km east of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, and is now delivering to Malawi’s national grid. The Golomoti solar plant is another recent addition. The plant is a 20 MWAC solar photovoltaic project coupled with a 10 MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system at Dedza, approximately 100 km southeast of Lilongwe. The plant is connected to the adjacent Golomoti substation and power is evacuated via a 132 kV transmission line. This is another welcome development that is now delivering some much-needed power to Malawi’s national grid. The Golomoti solar plant is the first utility scale plant in Malawi that is integrated with a battery energy storage system.

The Government of Malawi (GOM), IFC, Scatec, and EDF also have a binding commercial agreement to undertake the co-development of the Mpatamanga hydropower project. The agreement was signed under Malawi’s Public-Private Partnership framework. The 350 MW plant will be located on the Shire River. The generation facility is composed of two plants — a 309 MW peaking plant and a 41 MW downstream plant. This new plant will help raise Malawi’s generation capacity to close to 1 GW. In a country of over 19 million and very low electricity access,  a whole lot more capacity will need to be added soon.

Serengeti Energy, an Independent Power Producer (IPP) developing, constructing, and operating small to medium sized renewable power plants of up to 50 MW in Sub-Saharan Africa with seven operating hydro power plants in its portfolio with a capacity of 49 MW, has just announced that the energization of Nkhotakhota 1, a 21 MWAC solar photovoltaic power plant, was done on 19th February 2023. Nkhotakhota 1, the first phase of two power projects totaling approximately 38 MWAC when completed, has achieved mechanical completion while testing and commissioning is ongoing. Plans are underway to reach commercial operation date (COD) in the coming weeks. The addition of two new solar PV plants in Malawi and Sierra Leone will add a further 26 MW to Serengeti Energy’s portfolio. Serengeti Energy’s goal is to have 300 MW of capacity in operation by 2030.

As part of the efforts of the Malawian government to meet the country’s shortfall in generation capacity against the existing demand, the 21 MW solar PV power plant will contribute to strengthening and diversifying the country’s energy mix. Malawi Country Director Patrick Silungwe remarked, “Serengeti Energy would like to thank ESCOM and all involved stakeholders for being instrumental towards the successful energization of Nkhotakota 1. We would also like to thank the government of Malawi for their support in ensuring the project’s overall success. This shows the commitment towards increasing sustainable energy supply to the national grid. We look forward to further collaboration as we set course to begin the second phase of the project.”

It’s good to see all these projects taking off in Malawi.  The country really needs to increase its generation capacity and increase access to electricity.

Images courtesy of Serengeti Energy

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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