Energy focused company, Shumba Coal, plans to develop a solar power station to produce up to 200MW in the North-Western part of the country, where copper mines are sprouting up.
The Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) Listed coal junior on Tuesday released an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) public notice for the Photo Voltaic project, which will 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,” reads the notice.
The power station is expected to supply upcoming copper mines in the Kalahari copper belt, which are currently not connected to the national grid.
A unit of Barclays, Cupric Canyon recently announced that they would begin construction of a 50 000 tonnes per annum copper mine in Somelo, near Maun, where the power station is proposed to be built. Cupric also recently bought Boseto Mine, which is in the same area, out of liquidation, after it folded under high operating costs including diesel expenses for generating power for mine last year. In the public notice, Shumba said public consultations would begin on July 22, 2015.
When contacted for comment, Shumba managing director Mashale Phumaphi said they were not ready to release much information at this stage, due to the high competition in this field.
“We however see solar energy as complimentary to our coal based energy projects,” he said. As part of efforts to secure power for the northwest based miners, government is expected to invite bids for the construction of a 50MW solar power station to supply mines in that area. Minerals, Energy and Water Resources 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 North-West region and as well as another 50MW in Jwaneng.
“The plant in the North –West 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 costs $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 aimed at reducing 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), double the 96 thebe the coal-fired power costs.