Zimasco Plans 100MW Solar Farm Amid Rising Electricity Costs

Mining giant in Zimbabwe turns to solar energy to combat high power expenses, collaborates with local municipality for sustainable solution

by Adenike Adeodun

The Zimbabwe Mining and Alloy Smelting Company (Zimasco) has unveiled plans to establish a 100MW solar farm on a parcel of land situated between the Mbizo high-density suburb and the Sebakwe River. In partnership with the Kwekwe municipality, the initiative aims to address the soaring electricity expenses encountered by the company, which operates ferrochrome smelting facilities in the area.

Zimasco, a subsidiary of China’s Sinosteel, boasts an annual production capacity of 180,000 tonnes of high carbon ferrochrome. However, facing heightened power costs and diminishing ferrochrome prices on the global market, the company made the decision to deactivate four out of its six furnaces at the Kwekwe plant in December 2023.

State media sources have confirmed that the envisioned solar project will not only serve to power Zimasco’s smelting operations but will also contribute surplus electricity to the national grid. Recognizing the imperative of conducting an environmental and social impact assessment in accordance with Zimbabwe’s Environmental Management Act, the company underscores its commitment to sustainable development practices.

The move towards solar energy comes as a strategic response to Zimasco’s grappling with exorbitant electricity expenses in the preceding year. By leveraging solar power, the mining giant anticipates achieving greater energy autonomy, thereby mitigating the adverse effects of escalating utility costs.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s energy regulatory body, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), has observed a rising trend of investment in renewable energy projects by Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Such endeavors primarily target self-consumption, aiming to offset the detrimental repercussions of the nation’s erratic power supply infrastructure.

Nonetheless, the electricity sector in Zimbabwe continues to confront formidable challenges, as highlighted by the World Bank. Despite incremental progress, the country grapples with substantial power deficits, leading to prolonged outages lasting 12 to 14 hours daily. While the government made strides by commissioning an additional 600MW at the Hwange power station in 2023, the existing generation capacity remains insufficient to meet burgeoning demand.

Persistent power shortages inflict a heavy toll on economic growth and competitiveness, particularly within the mining sector. Reduced profit margins, compounded by uncertainties surrounding the viability of expansions and new ventures, underscore the urgent need for comprehensive reforms within the electricity industry.

Despite these challenges, Zimasco’s initiative to harness solar energy signals a proactive stance towards achieving energy sustainability and cost-efficiency. By diversifying its energy sources, the mining company not only fortifies its operational resilience but also contributes to Zimbabwe’s broader objective of bolstering its energy infrastructure and fostering economic resilience.

Source: ESI Africa

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