At the moment the biggest solar farm under construction in the world is the Tengger Desert Solar Park in China which is a 1.5 Gigawatt project. The planned Benban Solar Park near the city of Aswan in the South of Egypt is set to surpass the Tengger project as the biggest in the world – marking the arrival of the first mega solar farm in Africa.
According to the Egyptian Independent newspaper, the huge solar project is expected to come online by mid-2019. It will produce 20 percent of Egypt’s power through renewable energy by 2020 and serve 350,000 Egyptians. The mega-project aims to incorporate 41 solar farms on a 37.2 square kilometre area and will churn out a staggering 1.65 Gigawatts.
Egypt’s’ main source of energy comes from gas at 66% of total production while the balance is made up of hydro at 18.2% and oil at 15.6%. With a growing population and a dire need for additional energy production, the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company has revised its policies and opened up energy production to private sector investors.
The Benban project is unique in that it offers 41 allocated land tracts for each investor to develop its own solar farm. Each farm will then be connected through a high-voltage network through four new substantiations. These substations will be connected to an existing 220 kW line which is about 12km from the site. Infrastructure like roads and high voltage connections will be provided for by the state.
Independent Power producers are expected to sign a 25 year Power Price Usufruct Agreement with the New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA). The total cost of the project is expected to between US 3.5 to 4 Billion.
The Multilateral Investment and Guarantee Agency (MIGA) a division of the World Bank Group, is pitching US$210 million as political risk insurance for private investors to encourage them to invest. Egypt sovereign risk is compromised by political instability.
Egypt’s natural resources are well suited for solar energy production. In Bloomberg’s Climatescope 2017 annual report, Egypt’s ranking jumped 23 places, becoming number 19 out of 71 countries assessed for the progress they have made towards clean energy.
Author: Bryan Groenendaal