Photovoltaic is developed in Zambia

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema participated in the inauguration ceremony of the Itimpi solar photovoltaic power plant. Given the drought, this 60 MWp installation is designed to diversify the electricity mix.

A year after the commissioning of the Riverside PV power plant, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema returned to Kitwe for the inauguration of a second PV plant built by Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), through its subsidiary CEC Renewables. With an area of 80 hectares, the Itimpi photovoltaic plant is made up of 109,144 bifacial monocrystalline solar modules and 200 inverters. This equipment provides 60 MWp of power, making it one of the largest solar photovoltaic plants in operation in East Africa.

At the inauguration ceremony in Zambia’s Copperbelt province, President Hichilema praised the CEC’s efforts to help diversify the electricity mix and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Itimpi plant is expected to “offset 122,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year, complementing the CEC’s efforts to support Zambia’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC),” explained managing director Owen Silavwe. .
Financing through green bonds

According to Silavwe, the new power plant, equipped with solar trackers, will be capable of producing 130 GWh of electricity per year. Its construction required an investment of $53 million, financed by the first tranche of a $200 million green bond issued by CEC Renewables and listed on the Lusaka Stock Exchange.
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Following the inauguration of the new solar plant, the CEC announced its intention to issue further tranches of the green bond “to finance future solar developments with associated storage technology, including a 126 MWp solar plant on the same site, scheduled for construction in 2025.” Opened in February 2023, Kitwe’s first solar power plant has a capacity of 33 MWp. “The combination of our solar power plants in Itimpi and Riverside will produce a total annual energy production of 186 GWh,” explains Owen Silavwe.
The need to diversify the electrical mix

The construction of these solar power plants reflects the authorities’ desire to further diversify Zambia’s electricity mix. The East African country has an installed capacity of 3,030 MW, of which 2,393 MW is generated by hydroelectric plants. The largest of these is the 1,319 MW Kariba plant, which Zambia shares with Zimbabwe. The state-owned Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) sources part of the electricity it distributes to the population and businesses from thermal (gas and coal) and solar power plants.

With droughts increasing in eastern and southern Africa, Zambia is facing a drop in its dam levels and, consequently, electricity production during the dry season. “The drought that we have experienced this year is a wake-up call for the energy sector, which must be at the center of the search for sustainable solutions that guarantee a constant supply of electricity to our economy,” explains the director general of the CCA. ZESCO wants to further diversify its production sources by focusing on solar energy, which can support production from dams during periods of severe drought.