Rwanda’s first utility-scale PV plant, built by Norwegian firm Scatec Solar, has begun test operations.
The launch of the trial production period, during which 25% of the plant will be in operation, was marked with a visit yesterday by the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg.
The 8.5MW installation is the first grid-connected, utility-scale PV power plant to be built in East Africa and is expected to increase the generating capacity of Rwanda’s limited grid by around 7%. It is located on land belonging to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a community 60km from Rwanda's capital, Kigali, for youths orphaned in the 1994 genocide.
With the test period now underway, the plant is expected to begin full operation in August.
Raymond Carlsen, CEO of Scatec Solar, said: “Our objective has been to bring the experience we’ve gained from our large projects in South Africa to other African nations.
“The PPA [power purchase agreement] with the utility, EWSA, was signed in July 2013 and the solar plant is operational only a year later, demonstrating that with the combined efforts of experienced partners and national authorities, solar energy is fast and cost effective to implement.”
Rwanda is aiming to boost its grid capacity from 110MW to 560MW by 2017 over the coming years, so that 50% of the population has access to power by that time.
The country is formulating plans for a renewable energy feed-in tariff, which it is expected to launch this year.