Scatec plans 8.5MW Rwanda PV

Norway’s Scatec Solar and Netherlands-based developer Gigawatt Global Coöperatief have pinned down the necessary $23.7m in funding for an 8.5MW PV array in Rwanda – likely to become East Africa’s first utility-scale solar plant.

The plant, set to enter construction immediately and be fully operational by this summer, will swell by 8% the total electricity generation capacity of Rwanda, which currently stands at around 110MW in a country of more than 11 million.

Scatec, which late last year completed the 75MW Kalkbult PV array in South Africa, the first utility-scale PV plant on the African continent, will act as lead equity investor, EPC contractor and O&M provider for the Rwanda project.

Norfund – a private-equity company owned by the Norwegian government focused on boosting economic growth in developing countries – will also hold a sizeable equity stake in the project and provide a mezzanine loan.

The original developer, Gigawatt Global, whose president, Yosef Abramowitz, is also the co-founder of Israeli solar developer Arava Power and is a well-known “impact investor” globally, will retain a minority stake.

Dutch development bank FMO provided senior debt and arranged the debt package, with the FMO-backed Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund also supplying senior debt.

The array will be located 60km outside the capital of Kigali in a community established for orphaned youth after the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s, and has a 25-year power purchase agreement with Rwanda’s energy authority.

One of the world’s poorest countries, Rwanda has set a goal of providing electricity to half its population by 2017, by which time it hopes to have 560MW of power-generation capacity in place.

With the utility-scale solar market fast developing in South Africa, and beginning to take off in North Africa, there are hopes that developers will increasingly target countries other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where getting traditional power plants financed and built is often a major challenge.

In late 2012 the UK-based developer Blue Energy secured a feed-in tariff in Ghana for its 155MW Nzema PV project, with construction slated to start this year.