Gono’s firm to invest $80m in solar project

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Private energy firm, TD Energy — owned by former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono — will soon invest at least $80 million in the construction of its 40,8 megawatt solar power plant in Norton.

TD Energy has already received approval from regulators such as the Environmental Management Agency, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority for its Hunyani Solar Plant. Photovoltaic solar power plants require significant amounts of water for regular cleaning of panels to derive optimum effect of sunlight intensity.

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The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), which will buy power from the Norton plant, approved the solar power project after concluding that it was technically compliant and critical to augment its grid power supplies. This followed a grid impact assessment study it did in May this year. TD Energy’s unnamed foreign technical partner will fund the project.

ZETDC wrote to TD Energy certifying sustainability of the solar power project. The State power utility said the project will not cause problems on the grid. “The connection of TD Energy plant to the grid will result in an increase in local generation, network efficiencies and operational flexibility and is therefore highly recommended.” Unlike some approved large­scale solar projects, the size of TD Energy’s solar plant will not adversely weigh on ZETDC existing grid or transmission system.

gideon-gonoZERA has also licensed more than 24 independent power producers, but only a handful of the small projects have taken off the ground. “Connection of the project to the grid will not cause derogation of the ZESA grid, therefore the investor can proceed with the project as recommended,” ZETDC said. Construction work is expected to take 56 weeks.

TD Energy is owned by former central bank chief Dr Gono who could, however, not be reached for a comment by the time of going to print. A source privy to the developments said Dr Gono chairs TD Energy’s board of directors. The project is one of many the ex­RBZ chief has been working on since his tenure as governor lapsed. In its application to ZERA for the energy licence TD Energy said the decision to invest in solar power generation was taken out of the realisation that there is need to close the energy supply deficit in Zimbabwe, while generating financial returns for the investing company.

Zimbabwe is facing critical shortage of power with demand at 2 200MW against local production capacity of about 1 000MW. The deficit is accounted for through imports from regional utilities and private producers. Government is working on many initiatives, including Hwange and Kariba South, to increase internal power generation, but ZETDC’s recent system development plan, says demand is forecast to reach 3 500MW by 2010. TD Energy said it also recognised the need to generate electricity in an environmentally friendly manner without causing emission of global warming gases, which have been blamed worldwide for causing climate change.

Further, the private energy company said it took advantage of enough suitable land at its disposal, which is fittingly located for solar power generation. The Norton project site is close to the ZETDC grid, owned by TD Energy, as is required by regulatory provisions and provides good balance in terms of harvestable sunlight and the intensity that does not harm panel cells. The Environmental Management Authority has approved the project saying the plant had no extensive or unmanageable adverse impacts as to hinder its implementation. “It is therefore recommended that the project proceeds with the mitigation measures recommended,” said EMA.

Stakeholder consultations have been held with people from the Norton community and no objections were raised against the project, which will create new jobs, improve power supply and save the country a lot of money. TD Energy’s potential customers will include ZETDC, municipalities and Government and private firms such as Zimbabwe Platinum Mines, Mimosa Mines, Morton Jeffrey Water Works, agro industries, Norton Town Council, Hunyani Business, Garba Industries and JW Wilson Furniture

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