The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) is set to embark on a $570 million solar power project to mitigate the crippling power shortages in the country.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
The project is set to be implemented in Gwanda, Plumtree and Munyati.
Noah Gwariro, ZPC managing director last week said four bidders — out of six — were vying for the job.
The bidding is currently under the adjudication process which is expected to have ended by June. The project seeks to have solar plants put up, each of which would be expected to generate 100MW. The estimated construction period is nine months.
Gwariro said the power generation company was facing production challenges at its plants in Kariba (Unit 6) and Hwange (Units 4 and 5), forcing them to seek out solar as an alternative source due to its availability.
“We are endowed with a lot of solar energy in Zimbabwe and this is a source of free energy once you have installed the equipment,” Gwariro said.
“The advantage is that the stations in Hwange can run out of coal and other stations can run out of a source of supply but the sunshine will continue to be available.”
The solar project is part of the $5 billion project expected to generate a total of 3 500MW over a period of five to six years.
Gwariro said ZPC was facing challenges in paying suppliers as it was owed by many of its customers.
“What it means is that we are not up to date with the maintenance of our plants, which makes them unreliable,” he said.
In the first quarter of 2015, Kariba Power Station was generating 51% of the power output, Hwange (30%), small thermals (6%) and 13% was coming from imports.
Procurement of feasibility studies and engineering procurement and construction services have been ongoing to make sure the project comes out well. It is expected to start at the end of the adjudication process.
ZPC is also working on the expansion works at Hwange and Kariba power stations, which is expected to add 900MW to the national grid. Kariba South extension will involve construction of two units of 150MW each at a total cost of $355 million. Hwange Power Station extension will see the construction of two units of 300MW each at a total cost of $1,5 billion.
Zimbabwe has been facing power shortages which are expected to peak in winter. The manufacturing sector says power shortages have forced companies to invest in other alternatives, thereby increasing the cost of production. This has made local products uncompetitive against imports.