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#1: De Aar 3 - Image: Phelan Energy Group
In preparation of the Unlocking Solar Capital: Africa conference taking place November 1-2 in Nairobi, Kenya, Solarplaza is presenting you with an overview of the dynamic large scale solar PV landscape in Africa. We have gathered data and composed a list of the 50 largest grid-connected operational PV projects in Africa. The overview provides valuable insights into what the market situation looks like in terms of scale; which countries are leading the way or might be rising stars; and which organizations are responsible for the development.
The Top 10 is presented below and access to the full Top 50 overview is easily provided through the form at the bottom.
The enormous potential of solar energy in Africa is finally attracting the attention of the rest of the world. Due to several factors such as a huge energy deficiency, fast growing population, cost competitive RE and high solar irradiation, stakeholders in the sector are realizing the opportunity and everyone seems to be keen on claiming their piece of the pie.
With the market really starting to take off it is interesting to see how photovoltaics are developing and securing their spot in the continent’s energy mix. Traditionally South Africa has been one of the early adopters on the continent. Solar PV has seen enormous growth in the country since the supporting REIPPPP government policies, which have made developing solar projects way more attractive and viable than in other countries. The results? Most of the largest African solar power plants are all located in South Africa, with the country hosting 29 of the 50 projects in the complete overview and 7 listings in the Top 10.
#4: Prieska Solar Plant - Image: Sonnedix
In the meantime, however, other African countries have been creating policies and regulations to stimulate renewables as well. The big buzz around markets like Nigeria and Senegal has yet to pay off in large projects being connected, but still many big plants have been commissioned in countries outside of South Africa. Algeria, for example, is making great strides in scaling up its solar capacity and contributes 8 utility-scale PV plants to the overview, including some of the largest entries in the Top 10. No other countries are at that level yet, but Ghana and Namibia each have two listings in the overview.
Looking at the scale of the plants in the overview, it’s interesting to see that all of the listings in the top 50 are in the range between 1 and 100MW, with no plant smaller than 1MW, but also none larger than 90MW. Whereas +100MW sized plants are becoming more common in countries like the US, Chile, China & India; in Africa solar capacity seems to be more split up over “smaller” plants instead of such huge centralized solar farms. Our upcoming overview of African solar plants in development will shed a light on how this might change in the near future.
#5: De Aar 1 - Image: MainstreamRP
In terms of developers, there isn’t a single company domineering the space, though there are several recurring names, and amongst them prolific players like Scatec Solar (4 plants), Yingli (4), Juwi (4), SolarReserve (3) and Masdar (2).
Even though the overview clearly shows how South Africa has been the most strongly developed solar market on the continent, it also indicates that many other African countries are gaining a foothold as well and are developing utility-scale solar plants to match those in South Africa. With new means of financing; government issued tenders; development banks pitching in; and involvement of international financiers and developers, many African solar markets are ready to blossom. You can be sure that this overview will already look quite different one year from now, and within five years, the landscape might have completely changed...