Solar Project Aims to Becomes Largest in West Africa

An American-based investment group has secured a power purchase agreement with the Namibian government to build a 500-megawatt photovoltaic power plant near the capital of Windhoek.

If built, the plant would represent the largest solar installation in West Africa, and could eventually include wind generation and grow up to 1 gigawatt. The group, led by Washington-based project developer SSI Energy Solutions (SSIES), is the parent company of Africa Energy Corp., which was set up for the Namibia project. Partners in the project include former SunEdison CEO Jigar Shah, Tom Amis and Nik Patesh of clean-energy law firm Cooley LLP, Eric Henderson of the Beacon Group and Adam Stern and Gary Kleiman of The Gemstone Group.

The company is now working to strike a deal with an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor. According to the company, construction costs are expected to be between $1.6 billion and $2 billion. Once a deal is in place, the company says it can break ground in January, with a plan for completion within one to two years. 

The project is far bigger than any solar project currently online in the southern hemisphere. South Africa, which borders Namibia, has garned the most interest in the region for large-scale developments.  

Namibia, which gained its independence from South Africa in 1990, is known for its stable democratically elected parliament and was seen by the group as ideal for a development of this size.

The nation of more than 2 million residents relies heaving on coal imports from its neighbors – South Africa to the south and Botswana to the east. However, shortages have strained the economy. The project could position the Namibian government, which controls the utility, to use electricity from the project to power municipalities and mining operations, as well as ports and airport facilities.

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