Govt invites bids for solar power plants

a solar power plant
a solar power plant

Government has launched a bidding process for companies interested in constructing solar power plants, in a landmark development signalling a renewed effort to exploit renewable energy resources.

In an Expression of Interest (EOI) notice published on Tuesday, the government of Botswana invited bids from companies interested in building and operating a solar power station to supply Jwaneng as well as the northwest region, where copper mines are sprouting. “This invitation is a request for expression of interest to construct, operate, maintain and decommission at the end of its economic life, a scalable solar power plant,” the notice read.

The notice, however, did not specify the capacity wanted, but the Minerals, Energy and Water Resources ministry has previously stated the government should place 100MW solar power tenders, which would be equally split between Jwaneng and the northwest mines.

The Minister, Kitso Mokaila, recently told a mining conference that plans are underway to invite bidders for the construction of a 50MW solar plant in the northwest region and as well as another 50MW in Jwaneng.

“The plant in the northwest region is to basically support the mining companies in the area. 

A study identified Jwaneng as the most suitable place for a solar power plant in the country due to sunshine availability. That is why we have decided to split the 100MW project into two parts,” he explained.  A feasibility study carried out by the African Development Bank (AFDB) two years ago estimated that it would cost $592 million to set up the 100MW solar power station in Botswana.

The solar plant will not be base load, but will run for 16 hours a day with four hours of thermal energy storage. A pre-feasibility study in 2008 had identified Letlhakane, Jwaneng, Selebi-Phikwe, Serowe and Maun as receiving the most solar irradiation and faced with fewer obstacles, and therefore the most ideal sites for the pioneering solar power station. 

The solar power station forms part of a range of initiatives to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and costly diesel-fired power stations. 

Despite Botswana’s abundant solar resources, government has been reluctant to implement the project due to its high costs.

It is estimated that power from the solar station will attract tariffs as high as P2 per Kilowatt-hour (KWH), which is double the 96 thebe that the coal-fired power costs. Last week, energy focused company, Shumba Coal, announced plans to develop a solar power station to produce up to 200MW in the northwestern region. The Botswana Stock Exchange-listed coal junior released an Environmental Impact Assessment public notice last week for the Photovoltaic project to include an initial 100MW power plant, with a plan to increase to 200MW. “The project will include an initial installation of 400,000 PV panels within an area of 200 hectares,” read the notice from Shumba. Botswana, with a power demand of around 590MW, is currently reliant on electricity from coal-fired plants as well as diesel generators.

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