The Rwandan government is desperately searching for more energy – in 2013, they only had 1110 megawatts, according to Twaha Twagirimana, the supervisor at the new solar plant built just last year. At 8.5 megawatts, it resembles the shape of the African continent from above.
In fact, the contract for the new solar field was signed within twelve months of construction and operation. At $23.7 million, the plant has already created 350 new jobs and increased electricity generation by 6%. Even just that much can power an additional 15,000 houses.
Twenty-one years after the genocide, the setting for the solar plant is beautiful. As The Guardian’s David Smith describes it, “the setting is magnificent amid Rwanda’s famed green hills”. 60km east of the capital, Kigali, 28,360 solar panels track the sun across the sky throughout the day. Their movement increases their efficiency by 20%.
Interestingly, the local community’s reaction has been mixed, according to Smith’s article, even though the solar power farm generated 15 million kilowatt hours of energy in its first year and was able to send power to a substation located 9km away. Twagirimana explains that locals want direct energy from the farm itself because they believe it will be cheaper. Instead, the plant sells electricity to the utility company. The building where Twagiriman supervises the plant is even powered by the grid.
Funding for the project came from the Obama Administration’s Power Africa initiative. The Rwandan government then selected a bid from a collaboration between Norfund, Gigawatt Global and Scatec Solar. The plant will continue to receive international support from a central server in Oslo and can also be monitored via the internet.
Image (c) Cyril Ndegeya / AFP for the Guardian