Uganda has placed itself on the map of countries like India embracing solar energy, as it has launched the largest solar plant in East Africa.
The Soroti Solar plant located on 33 acres of land in Soroti District, is made up of 32,680 photovoltaic panels, and has an output of 10 to 12 megawatt. The facility is the country’s first grid-connected solar plant and is expected to generate clean, sustainable electricity to 40,000 households.
It said the power plant has the potential to increase its net output capacity by a further 20 megawatt of solar energy. According to the World Bank, Uganda currently has an 18.2 percent electrification rate.
Costing $19 million, the Soroti plant was developed under the Global Energy Transfer Feed-in Tariff (GET FiT), a dedicated support scheme for renewable energy projects managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank in partnership with Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA) and funded by the governments of Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and, partly, the European Union (EU).
The solar plant overtakes the solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, the 42-acre power plant shaped like the African continent, which has a capacity of 8.5 megawatt.
The dependency on electricity through poor infrastructure has made blackouts routine in most African countries as the bulk of power plants and transmission facilities were built in the 1950s and 1960s. During droughts and even regardless, countries that depend on hydroelectric power generation, switch to generator sets, thus reducing productivity, higher costs in terms of industrialisation and many households are left in perpetual darkness at night.
According to New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), it is estimated that no more than 20 per cent, and in some countries as little as 5 percent, of the population in Africa (excluding South Africa and Egypt) has direct access to electricity. This figure falls to 2 percent in rural areas.
Africa is often considered and referred as the the continent where the sun’s influence is the greatest. According to the World Sunshine Map, Africa receives many more hours of bright sunshine during the course of the year than any other continent on earth.
Solar power is seen as one way Africa can reduce its energy gaps, as about 600 million people still lack the connection, and those figures are worse in East Africa.
The commissioning of the Soroti solar power plant comes at a backdrop of the threat of climate change and the Paris Agreement signed by countries to reduce their emissions.