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PV in Africa: Large installations are becoming increasingly common

Until recently, photovoltaics in Africa were mostly used in off-grid systems for rural electrification. But today, more and more large commercial installations and solar parks are being built, driven by the steadily declining costs of solar power, growing investor interest and the increasing energy demand of a rapidly expanding population.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BloombergNEF), investments in renewable energies in 48 sub-Saharan countries (excluding South Africa) grew to a record 2.8 billion US dollars in 2018. The analysts expect at least 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic capacity to be deployed in the region in the coming year, more than twice as much as in 2018.

Planning is currently underway for Togo’s first large solar farm with a capacity of 30 megawatts (MW). In Namibia, a 20 MW solar park developed by the national utility company NamPower is scheduled to go online this year and a call for tenders for a second 20 MW park is expected soon. In the fall of 2019, the governments of Namibia and Botswana announced plans to implement solar projects with an installed capacity of 5 GW within the next two decades. Some of the solar power generated by these projects is set to be exported to other African countries.

Large solar parks are also on the rise in Uganda. A 24 MW system went online in the south of the country in January of 2019, followed by a 10 MW free-standing installation in June. In mid-February, a state-owned Chinese company announced its intention to build a 500 MW photovoltaic plant in Uganda. The project – worth 500 million US dollars – will be implemented in two construction phases.

Photovoltaics gaining popularity in Africa

There’s a lot going on in South Africa as well. An 86 MW solar park went online in February and is expected to deliver 217 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year. The coming months should see the completion of two additional PV parks within the Sirius project with a total capacity of 172 MW. According to government plans, photovoltaic plants with a capacity of at least 6 GW will be built in South Africa within the next decade.

The Intersolar Europe Conference in Munich will present the latest developments on the African solar market as well as a new study looking at PV on the continent.