Large scale solar strikes back in Africa!
07 Jan 2020

When it comes to solar opportunities, the African continent is blessed with an abundance of options: from large scale to residential projects, through mini-grids (MGs), solar home systems (SHS), commercial and industrial (C&I), on grid, off grid, and a whole array of solar applications related to water, refrigeration or cooking. This wide diversity of solar applications and markets makes Africa truly unique and attractive to solar professionals and entrepreneurs from around the globe.

But over the past 2 years, large scale solar projects had been lagging behind other segments. Indeed, the great development in the SHS and MG space caught the spotlight, with great success stories from PEG, BBOXX, Rensource and PowerGen to name a few.

At the same time, large scale projects have been facing several challenges in Africa. From a technical point of view, the poor quality of the grid (or simply its absence) has severely limited the potential for large scale projects in many African countries. But contractual considerations have also been a hurdle. Despite the emergence of standardized tender processes (e.g. IFC’s Scaling Solar) which reduce risk and fast-track development, many public and private players still opt for bi-lateral negotiations which often end up in failure and generate considerable loss of time for projects.

But the end of 2019 was different and has witnessed a great momentum for large scale projects! In just a few weeks time, several multi-MW plants were commissioned, 600 MW were awarded, 500+ MW of PPAs were signed and 966 MW made significant financial progress through obtaining development grants and/or reaching Financial Close. And this is not to mention all the projects being commissioned in Benban, Egypt!

Here is a brief summary of the most notable recent development for large scale projects in Africa:

2019 has been an exciting year for solar in Africa. And there is no doubt this great momentum and diversity of opportunities will continue growing in the coming years.