Zimbabwe, like the rest of Africa, is blessed with eight sun hours daily.
The long hours of sunshine mean a big potential for solar energy. Unfortunately however, much of the sun hours are not being effectively harnessed for utility scale production of energy.
Yes, some homes, institutions and industries have been building rooftop systems for local consumption. Some households in rural areas have small solar systems they use for lighting, recharging their mobile phones and radios but there is no denying that all these localised systems are minuscule given the long sun hours in the country.
The Government sees the tremendous potential that solar energy presents, so is attracting investment into the sector.
Solgas Energy, a locally-owned company, is one of those that have heeded the call. It has invested US$7, 5 million in the first phase of a solar farm at Cross Mabale in Matabeleland North, feeding five megawatts into the national grid since last week. When the second phase, to cost US$8,5 million, is complete the entire project will be producing 10MW of electricity, a decent contribution to national energy security.
Solgas Energy chief executive officer, Mr Kingston Kamba said although the contribution that his company has started making by injecting 5MW into the national grid is small, there is vast potential for the company and other investors to generate more power from the sun.
“Our plan is to expand the plant,” he told the latest edition of our sister paper Sunday News.
“We already have the licence and paper work in place. We are now looking for funding for the phase two expansion.
Our plan is to have a plant in every province and complement Government efforts to provide affordable power to the country and our industries. Energy is a key enabler to economic growth. Our economy needs power. I am also excited about these key developments happening in Matabeleland North which is now the power heartbeat of the country with the solar farm now becoming part of the energy mix in that region.”
Solgas Energy’s investment is welcome and we look forward to more investments into the same energy source and other alternatives that abound in the country.
As indicated, there is a lot of potential for solar energy in the country. In itself, that massive potential is enough to attract investment into solar energy.
Mr Kamba said the first phase of the project was supported by Old Mutual, one of the world’s most reputable sources of financing for investment. That Old Mutual invested so much in an energy source of as limitless potential as solar must be enough to encourage greater investment not only into the second phase of the Solgas Energy project but also into others that seek to harness solar energy across the country. We are therefore confident that Solgas Energy will get the financial support it needs to deliver another 5MW and more with similar investments in other provinces.
The economy is recovering and growing fast on the back of pro-investment policies that the Government is putting in place. This year, the economy is projected to grow by more than seven percent, a trajectory we and reputable institutions see being maintained well into the future.
More investment into energy generation, transmission and distribution is therefore needed to underpin Government efforts to promote national energy security and support economic recovery and growth.