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- ACADEMIC CORNER
On November 24, 2016, the developer Access Uganda Solar Ltd (partnership between Access Power from Dubai and the French company EREN Renewable Energy) announced beginning of commercial operation of the Soroti Solar Power Plant, located just outside Soroti Town in Soroti District, Eastern Uganda. The 10 MW plant (32,680 solar modules on 13 hectares) became the first grid-connected solar power plant in Uganda, but also East Africa’s largest photovoltaics plant at date of commissioning. The Soroti Solar Power Plant will produce around 17,5 GWh each year, which correspond to clean, low-carbon, sustainable electricity to 40,000 homes, schools and businesses in the area
The GET FiT Investment Committee had approved the Soroti Solar Project in October 2014, as part of the Solar Facility for the GET FiT Premium Payment Mechanism. The Developer signed a Developer Financing Agreement with Government of Uganda (represented by KfW) in July 2015, and the 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (UETCL) in September 2015. Financial close was achieved in January 2016, and the Engineering, Procurement and Construction Contractor (Spanish company TSK) started mobilization in February 2016.
Being the first of its kind in Uganda, the Soroti project naturally faced a range of regulatory, technical and financial challenges on its implementation path. Nonetheless and despite externally caused delays, the plant was commissioned only two years after selection for GET FiT support. This was made possible only through the continuous and coordinated efforts of the Developer, ERA, UETCL, KfW/GET FiT and other stakeholders. Importantly, efforts were maintained due to a strong, common ambition of pushing Uganda’s first on-grid solar PV project ahead.
One of the main advantages of solar power is that project lead times are among the shortest of any power generation technology. While it took approximately nine months to build and commission the 10 MW Soroti plant, it could have been achieved in five months had the developer not experienced external delays due to customs clearance and damaged equipment during shipping (transformers). Nonetheless the implementation of the project was a major achievement, in particular considering the very steep learning curve for the sector as a whole.
At peak construction, the plant had over 120 local workers involved, including engineers recruited and trained by the Developer. Local trained employees will also implement the Operation and Maintenance of the plant.
Mr. Ambrose Kamukama, Electrical Technician, AUSL. (Photo: Multiconsult)
The USD 19 million plant is financed by a mix of debt and equity with the senior debt facility being provided by FMO, the Netherlands Development Bank, and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF). The GET FiT Program supports the project with approximately USD 9.5 million, to be disbursed over a 5 year period.
The inauguration ceremony on December 12, 2016, was attended by Uganda’s Minister of State for Energy, H.E. Simon D’Ujanga, together with the EU Head of Delegation to Uganda, H.E. Kristian Schmidt, the ambassadors of Germany and the Netherlands Dr. Peter Blohmeyer and Mr. Henk Jan Bakker, as well as representatives of Access Power, EREN RE, TSK, ERA, FMO, EAIF, and other stakeholders.
EU Ambassador and Ambassadors of the Netherlands and Germany join Uganda’s Minister of State for Energy H.E. Simon D’Ujanga for the official tape cutting at the launch of the Soroti Solar Power Plant. (photo: Delegation of the European Union to Uganda)