Botswana invites bids for 100-MW solar power plant

State power utility Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has invited bids for the construction of a 100-MW solar power project, a sign that the landlocked country is moving to address its crippling electricity supply deficit.

In a statement on its website BPC said that the photovoltaic (PV) solar project would be completed within two years of the selection of a development partner, after a preferred engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor has been picked following the tendering process.

The solar plant is being built in anticipation of an increase in electricity demand in Botswana. Projections by BPC suggest that demand will grow to 1,359 MW by 2035, from 600 MW at present – at least 50% of demand comes from the country’s growing mining sector.

New renewables capacity will also help address the current generation deficit that has forced the country to rely on power imports from South Africa and Mozambique.

BPC has also called for a plant with “suitable storage capacity,” suggesting the tender could include a battery storage component.
Firms are asked to submit a company profile, a description of similar assignments and relevant experience before the closing date of June 14, 2017.

BPC will then shortlist pre-qualified firms, which will be invited to tender for the required services by responding to a more detailed Request for Proposal (RfP).

The commencement of the bidding process is a confirmation of Botswana’s determination to be self-sufficient in electricity supply. BPC is already implementing the 300-MW expansion of the Morupule B power plant units 5 & 6 with partial financing from the World Bank and African Development Bank. The project has, however, stalled after the joint venture contractor of Japan’s Marubeni and South Korea’s Posco Energy differed with the government of Botswana over the provision of a US$800 million sovereign guarantee in case of any payment defaults by BPC.

The company appears keen to take advantage of the falling cost of wind and solar technology and the fact that Botswana has 3,200 hours of sunshine every year, with an average insolation of 21MJ per square metre.

In February, Botswana completed a comprehensive renewable energy strategy meant to attract domestic and foreign investment in wind, solar and biomass technologies as a way of diversifying its power generation. If the latest tender attracts international interest, the first plank of this strategy could bear fruit within two years.