Botswana Ignites Solar Revolution with Historic 100MW Project Launch

First Grid-Connected Solar Cluster to Power Thousands, Cut CO2 Emissions

by Ikeoluwa Juliana Ogungbangbe
Botswana solar project

Botswana has embarked on a groundbreaking journey in its renewable energy sector by launching the construction of its first utility-scale grid-connected solar project, marking a significant stride toward achieving energy self-sufficiency and environmental sustainability. The project, located in the Mmadinare District, is spearheaded by Scatec Solar ASA, a leading Norwegian independent power producer, and is poised to be a game-changer in Botswana’s energy landscape.

President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi officially commenced the construction of Phase 1 of the Mmadinare 100MW Solar Cluster last week. This ambitious project, heralded as the first of its kind in the nation, forms a pivotal part of Botswana’s integrated resource plan aimed at bolstering the country’s renewable energy capacity. With an eye on the future, this solar project, alongside other forthcoming renewable initiatives, is expected to play a crucial role in satisfying Botswana’s escalating electricity demands.

The president expressed optimism that the Mmadinare project, along with subsequent renewable energy endeavors, would pave the way for Botswana to achieve its long-term aspirations of self-reliance in electricity production and to position itself as a net electricity exporter. Highlighting the commitment to local empowerment, President Masisi announced that ten small-scale grid-tied solar plants, cumulatively generating 32MW, have been allocated exclusively to 100% citizen-owned companies. Moreover, for larger utility-scale grid-connected solar projects like Mmadinare and Jwaneng, a stipulation has been made for a mandatory 40% shareholding by citizen-owned entities, underscoring the importance of inclusive growth and local participation in the burgeoning renewable sector.

Botswana, blessed with an abundance of natural resources and more than 3,200 hours of sunshine annually, stands at the cusp of harnessing its vast solar energy potential. In alignment with the nation’s Vision 2036, which envisages a 50% renewable energy allocation by 2036, the Mmadinare Solar Cluster is a critical milestone towards realizing this ambitious goal.

The project’s financial framework was solidified in August 2022 when Scatec and the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) inked a binding 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), earmarking an estimated total capital expenditure of $104 million for the solar PV facility. The construction and subsequent operation of the power plants will be orchestrated by Scatec’s organization based in South Africa, leveraging their expertise and experience in the renewable energy domain.

Scatec CEO Terje Pilskog shared his enthusiasm for the project, stating, “As we reach another milestone in our renewable energy journey in Botswana, we are now looking forward to starting construction of the largest solar project in the country.” Located near the former mining town of Selebi-Phikwe, roughly 400 kilometers northeast of Gaborone, the Mmadinare solar power plant is not just an energy project but a significant environmental initiative. Once operational, it is expected to prevent approximately 48,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually and supply electricity to around 20,000 households, demonstrating Botswana’s commitment to sustainable development and a greener future.

As Botswana forges ahead with its renewable energy initiatives, the Mmadinare 100MW Solar Cluster stands as a beacon of progress, showcasing the nation’s dedication to cleaner energy sources, environmental stewardship, and economic empowerment. This landmark project not only aligns with global sustainability goals but also sets a precedent for other African nations to follow in the transition towards renewable energy.

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