Scatec’s CEO provides update on African solar PV projects

 

  • Terje Pilskog, the CEO of Norwegian developer Scatec, recently spoke to pv magazine about the company’s PV projects in South Africa, Botswana and Egypt.
  • He said financing remains a critical hurdle to deploy solar across the continent.

Norway-based Scatec reached financial close on the first 60 MW portion of Botswana’s 120 MW Mmadinare Solar complex last year.The total capital expenditure for the full 120 MW project is $104 million. Financing for the first 60 MW will be provided by Rand Merchant Bank in Botswana and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp.

According to Pilskog, the construction of this utility-scale solar project started earlier this year, with construction of the second phase scheduled to start toward the middle of this year.

“We are looking to finalise the construction and start commercial operations of these projects in the first half of 2025,” he said.

Scatec owns 100% of the project and will be the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, asset manager, and operations and maintenance provider. Terje said Scatec uses tier-1 suppliers, buys the best modules and inverters, and has good tracking systems.

“We use bifacial modules to get the best efficiency possible, so it is high-quality tier-1 equipment. A lot of it, especially the panels, is from China. The inverters come from various places,” he said.

In addition to the Botswana project, Scatec also reached commercial operation of the Kenhardt project at the end of 2023. The hybrid 540 MW solar project with 225 MW of batteries at 1.1 GW hours of battery storage capacity will provide energy for 16.5 hours per day, said Pilskog.

“We were in competition with other types of technologies, including fossil fuels, and this pure renewable energy project succeeded and was among the most competitive in price,” he added. “This shows that renewable energy is competitive with other sources of energy, including fossil fuels, given the abundance of solar irradiation in Africa.”

Scatec also provides “Release,” a distributed-generation solar and battery energy storage systems (BESS) solution for projects starting from 5 MWp.

“We are leasing out re-deployable, pre-assembled solutions for solar energy plus batteries. We enter into shorter-term contracts with off-takers like small utilities and mining companies, and at the end of the leasing period the system can be put back together into the container and redeployed to new locations.” said Pilskog. “We believe this solution is much better suited for mid-sized installations. We have recently finalised installation of a 36 MW solar and 20 MW/19MWh storage facility in northern Cameroon for ENEO.”

He said the company has a number of interesting opportunities in South Africa.

“We have started construction of our 273 MW Grootfontein projects in South Africa,  and by mid-year we expect to reach financial close and start construction of a 103 MW battery storage project  in South Africa which we were awarded in a tender at the end of last year,” he explained. “Within the C&I space, we have launched Lyra Energy, a platform to aggregate and sell power to mid-sized and larger industrial customers with a consumption of 20 MW to 30 MW.”

Pilskog also noted projects in other countries such as Egypt, where the company signed an agreement during COP27 to develop a 5 GW onshore wind portfolio. During COP28, it signed an agreement to develop a hybrid 1 GW solar and battery storage project.

“Scatec is also developing a green hydrogen project in Ain Sokhna in Egypt with an electrolyser capacity of 100 MW,” he said. “The green hydrogen will be used as feedstock for green ammonia and a pilot of the project is already up and running and producing green hydrogen.”

Pilskog said that Africa is the continent with the most abundant resource in terms of solar irradiation.

“In principle, Africa should be able in the future to have the cheapest source of energy,” he said. “This will be a foundation for economic growth and global competitiveness. We have to come together and figure out how to bring down the financing cost.”

Author: Cosmas Mwirigi

This article was originally published in pv magazine and is republished with permission.

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