GOVERNMENT will soon rollout a programme to install solar power at all the country’s airports as part of efforts to reduce pressure on the national grid and also to ensure continued power supply in the face of decreased generation. Zimbabwe is grappling with subdued power generation largely due to decreased water levels in Kariba dam as well as the failure of thermal power stations to perform at optimum level due to their old state.
As a result, Zimbabwe has been importing up to 400MW from South African power utility Eskom since August when Government sealed a deal to pay off Zesa’s Eskom debt.
Hydro Cahora Bassa of Mozambique has also been supplying Zimbabwe with 50MW but Government is negotiating to have this increased to 400MW so as to reduce on the current load-shedding and breath life in local industry which has come worse off due to the power crunch.
In an interview, Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi, said airports are a key infrastructure whose power supply should always be guaranteed and this can only be done through solar.
Minister Chasi also said the move was in line with Government strategy to reduce pressure on the national grid and encouraging users to be energy generators as opposed to waiting for the grid and thus minimising foreign currency being used for power imports.
“The basic idea is that airports are a key national installation and we have to have a situation where there is assurance that there won’t be any power outage there,” said Minister Chasi.
“The reason is that if there is going to be an outage, it could seriously compromise on safety as well as cause a serious dent on tourism.
“Going solar is also consistent with Government efforts to remove as many consumers as possible from the grid and serve the country’s foreign currency substantially.
“In due course I will advise on who is going to do it and when they will start as well as other related details,” he said.
Private companies are also investing or working on plans to set up their solar plants in a bid to wean themselves off the national grid and achieve energy self-sustenance.
In June, Zimplats Holdings — the country’s largest platinum group metals (PGMs) producer — announced that it is interrogating the feasibility of constructing a 160 megawatts solar power plant to guarantee uninterrupted and affordable power supplies for its operations.
Elsewhere, former Eskom chief executive officer Engineer Matshela Koko is working on a 100MW solar project in Gwanda and plans are afoot to sink in US$250 million in the massive solar farm.
Another local company, Harava Solar, has invested about US$25 million in the designing and construction of a 20MW solar power plant in Seke as the migration to solar continues to gather pace.–herald.co.w