A LOCAL private firm, Intratrek Zimbabwe, has partnered Chinese firm CHINT Electric Co. Limited to establish three giant solar power stations with a combined output of 300 megawatts in Bulawayo, Plumtree and Beitbridge.
The multimillion-dollar project will be one of Zimbabwe’s quickest solutions to power problems considering the experience of Intratrek Zimbabwe’s partner.
A total of US$750 million syndicated project funding has reportedly been agreed with HSBC Bank, China Eximbank and United Overseas Bank of Singapore.
Each of the three areas designated for the solar power plants in Matabeleland will have a 100MW power plant constructed under an independent power project that is expected to go a long way in easing Zimbabwe’s crippling power deficit.
Zimbabwe is facing serious power shortages resulting in rolling power cuts to balance demand and supply, which has come at a huge cost to industry and households.
Intratrek Zimbabwe director and Harare businessman Mr Wicknel Chivhayo said his company’s objective, fashioned in line with Zanu-PF’s 2013 election manifesto, was to promote indigenisation, empower and create employment for locals.
“We are trying to complement the democratically elected Government’s effort to revive the economy by reducing the country’s energy deficit,” Mr Chivhayo said.
Zimbabwe is only able to generate about 1 100MW against national demand of 2 200MW at peak periods. The power deficit has to be covered by imports from the region.
“Matabeleland has weather patterns lending itself to become the centre of Zimbabwe’s solar farming industry. This has been confirmed by scientific studies carried out in Gwanda demonstrating excellent radiation conditions,” he said.
He said the yawning energy deficit had resulted in unsustainable domestic and industrial load shedding, abandonment of farming of strategic crops such as winter wheat and costly economic and business expenses due to intermittent outages.
Efforts to get a comment from CHINT Africa region sales director Mrs Tina Wu were fruitless, but her firm recently provided its investment analysis for the solar projects.
Commenting on the project, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Matabeleland South Abedinico Ncube welcomed the move towards green energy.
“The projects come at a time of worldwide moves towards renewable energy. We are fully supportive of this project whose aim is to bridge and ultimately end Zimbabwe’s power deficit. The project, as presented, is economically attractive in a variety of ways including employment creation,” said Minister Ncube.
He pointed out that the project represents many initiatives to ensure the country attains self-sufficiency in line with the Southern Africa Power Pool protocol and would help the country meet its Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The quick set-up approach to construction of the power plants will see 10MW being generated and transmitted on to the national grid within a period of just four months and the increases will be staggered until 100MW over a period of 14 months. In terms of international standards, with reliable technology and a 25-year guarantee it costs US$2,5 million to produce 1MW of solar power.
Power generated from the project will be sold to power utility Zesa Holdings at significantly cheaper prices than the cost of importing the deficit from the region.
Intratrek Zimbabwe’s partner, CHINT Electric, is among the world’s leading solar technology providers and the firm is China’s fourth largest private enterprise.
Founded in 1984, CHINT Group controls 40 percent of China’s solar market, generates an average of US$4,7 billion annually, employs about 29 000 workers globally and has strong balance sheet valued at a staggering US$30 billion.