Power outages in Burkina Faso are set to drop significantly after the country unveiled the biggest solar power plant in West Africa last month. The plant has been hailed as a novel initiative that will boost power supply in Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest nations, and cut its energy imports from its neighbours.
The plant, which was partially funded by France, sits on a 55-hectare piece of land in Zagtouli on the environs of Burkinabe’s capital Ouagadougou and is expected to generate at least 33 megawatts per day, which is enough to power tens of thousands of households.
“This is West Africa’s largest plant in terms of installed capacity,” Saidou Nana, the project overseer, was quoted by AFP.
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With 129,600 260-Watt solar panels, the plant is capable of producing at least 56 gigawatts every year, which is 5 percent of the total gigawatts produced by the country’s main power company Sonabel.
The plant has been on trial for the last six weeks, producing 14 megawatts a day. The project construction manager Stephane Nosserau is optimistic that it will produce even more megawatts in December when there is more sunshine.
Boosting the National Grid
Currently, Burkina Faso imports 40 percent of its electricity from the neighbouring Ivory Coast and only 20 percent of its overall population is connected to the national grid. The additional energy will help to solve the problem of perpetual shortages, which have immensely hampered the country’s economy.
“That’s why we decided with financial backers to provide Sonabel with a source of energy from photovoltaic panels to respond to the public’s needs, which are growing at an annualized 13%,” Nana explains.
The mega solar plant is estimated to have cost 47.5 million euros, half of which was donated by the European Union and the rest given as a loan by Cegelec, a French development agency.
Nana says the cost of construction and production is way cheaper than that of thermal power production, which he hopes will reduce their operating cost within Sonabel.
The plant’s inauguration ceremony was presided over by the President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Kabore, and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who had attended the EU-Africa Summit in Ivory Coast. The project qualifies Burkina Faso to enter the league of nations that are ditching other forms of energy production for solar.