Solar Mini Grids & Batteries for Africa

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There’s more good news for sub-Saharan Africa: the implementation of programs to support standalone solar mini grids in Nigeria, solar power plants in Cape Verde, the largest solar plant in West Africa — situated in Togo — and a battery! Data centers in South Africa, meanwhile, will move to renewable energy.

Once again, you will need your map! (See here and here for previous good news from Africa.)

Image courtesy of Google Maps.

In Nigeria, the Universal Energy Facility (UEF) is providing grants to 3,500 small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to accelerate the move to clean renewable energy.

“The UEF is a multi-donor results-based finance (RBF) facility established to significantly speed up and scale up energy access across Sub-Saharan Africa, in line with SDG7 and the Paris Agreement. The UEF provides incentive payments to eligible organizations deploying energy solutions and providing verified end-user electricity connections (including mini-grids and stand-alone solar systems) and clean cooking solutions based on pre-determined standards,” Afrik21 reports.

“SEforALL (Sustainable Energy for All), in collaboration with several donors and partners, including Shell Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, IKEA Foundation, Power Africa, Good Energies, UK FCDO, Carbon Trust, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ, and the Africa Mini grid Developers Association (AMDA), established the facility in response to growing demands from the energy access sector for results-based financing.”

Their approach is to support proven solutions and business models offered by experienced firms and organizations with standalone solar. UEF aspires to reduce carbon emissions by 4.8 Tt CO2 by delivering 1.3 million electricity connections and 300,000 clean cooking solutions by 2030.

Successful project tenders will receive grants from the UEF to solarise small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), markets, shopping centres, cold stores, clinics, schools, and other productive users of energy — that is, uses that support economic activity and community infrastructure. These projects are to be implemented across most Nigerian states over the next 12 months.

“With this programme in Nigeria, the UEF will demonstrate the enabling power that sustainable energy can have on local economic development and climate action,” says Damilola Ogunbiyi, SE4All’s Executive Director and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All. “Solar projects supported by the Facility will provide businesses with clean, affordable electricity to help them grow, create jobs and replace polluting energy sources,” she adds.

Solar-powered mini grids will replace diesel generators often used when the power grid goes down. Businesses and small shops will benefit from reduced electricity costs. A further program to improve access to electricity for households has also been launched.

Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The government of Cape Verde is calling for expressions of interest for the construction of solar power plants on four islands of the archipelago. These infrastructure plans are being built as part of a project co-financed by several development partners.

Cape Verde is a country composed of 9 inhabited islands 620 km off the west coast of Africa with a population of a little over half a million.

On Fogo, an island in the south of the archipelago, the tender is for the construction of a 1.3 MWp solar park. Other solar power plants (1.2 MWp) will be built on Santo Antão (1.2 MW), São Nicolau (0.4 MW), and the island of Maio (0.4 MW). Work is expected to start by August 2023 so that the solar power plants can be online sometime in 2025.

Successful companies will be expected to train local staff in the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the power plants.

“The solar plants will be built under the Renewable Energy and Improved Utility Performance Project (REIUP). This initiative of the Cape Verdean government is co-financed to the tune of USD 7 million by the International Development Association (IDA) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (Bird), two subsidiaries of the World Bank Group. REIUP is also co-financed by the Canadian Clean Energy and Forest Climate Facility (CCEFCF) with $7.5 million and the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF), a financing mechanism funded by Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the World Bank.”

Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Togo in West Africa is bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east, and Burkina Faso to the north. It has a population of 8 million people. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea and has a width of fewer than 115 km. And it is going to be home to the largest solar photovoltaic plant in West Africa — the Blitta solar power plant — currently 50 MW, soon to be 70 MW. This is expected to meet the needs of 222,000 Togolese households.

The foundation stone was laid recently by The President of the Republic, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé.

“This project would not be possible without the continued support of the Togolese government, which continues to demonstrate its commitment to renewable energy and access to energy for the Togolese people,” said Hussain Al Nowais, President of Amea Power. The first two phases of the plant have been operational since June 2022. The output of the Blitta solar plant is sold to the Compagnie Energie Electrique du Togo (CEET) under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

Amea Technical Services of Dubai will invest $25 million in the development of the third phase. “Funding is being provided by the Abu Dhabi Export Office (ADEX), a financial facility of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD).”

The installation of a 4 MWh battery storage system with help balance the local grid as well as supplying power after dark.

Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Down in South Africa, DPA SA is building a solar power plant near Bloemfontein, 397 km from Johannesburg. In Cape Town, South Africa, ADAC operates 1,800 square metres of storage space with a capacity of 5.5 MW. This facility is set for expansion to 25 MW, covering an area of 6,000 square metres. ADAC also operates data centres in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya; Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria; Harare in Zimbabwe; and Kigali in Rwanda.

“If data centres are the foundation of the digital transformation process in Africa, they need reliable, cost-effective and preferably green energy to operate. Our partnership with DPA will also help us to reduce our dependence on the South African national grid, which will allow us to help alleviate the energy challenges currently facing the country,” says ADAC head Tesh Durvasula.

Countries wishing to take full advantage of the renewable energy revolution need data, preferably data managed by machines running on and cooled by renewable energy. The African data centre will seek to decarbonise with the use of 12 MW of renewable energy from DPA Southern Africa. DPA SA is a joint venture between renewable energy provider Distributed Power Africa (DPA) and the Electricité de France (EDF) group.

“This new agreement will enable over 30% of our South African data centres to be powered by renewable energy, which is a major step forward in our goal to become carbon neutral,” says ADAC’s managing director. The decarbonisation of this growing sector is all the more important since data centres consume 2% of the world’s electricity. “A study reveals that the global data centre market was valued at $187.35 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $517.17 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 10.5% between 2021 and 2030” — making it imperative that the sector become carbon free.

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Once again, I would encourage readers to look south of the equator. Climate change is a global problem which can only be solved globally. We can’t only swim in the non-peeing end of the pool.


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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

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