Solar Future in Southern Africa
Setting the scene
The Copperbelt Energy Company in Zambia provides the majority of the country’s mines with power, purchased from a state-owned energy company. But they wanted to start generating their own power and educating their people about renewable energy plants and how to operate them. They commissioned BayWa r.e. to install a 1 MW photovoltaic plant, the largest PV project in Zambia to date.
A central part of this project was to produce an extensive training programme, covering project development, plant maintenance and operational management, for the Copperbelt Energy Company and also to strike up a collaboration with the neighbouring Copperbelt University to explore opportunities to educate students in renewable energy.
Meeting the Challenge
Constructing the large photovoltaic plant in this landlocked country in southern Africa certainly came with its challenges. The logistics of just bringing components to the site were difficult, with any given point in Zambia lying thousands of kilometers away and at least two long and complicated African border crossings from the nearest port.
This difficult journey also had to be considered from a supply chain perspective for the lifetime of the project. Certain inverters and critical parts could not be sourced in the region or easily delivered when needed, so we needed to overstock our spare parts package for this project.
While we took care of all construction and O&M aspects of the project, the accompanying training programme was put in place through a partnership with the Project Development Programme (PDP) of the GIZ and the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AHK). They devised classroom training on solar power development, financing and much more for the employees of the Copperbelt Energy Company.
They also worked closely with the Copperbelt University to produce a Renewable Energy curriculum for their masters programme in electrical engineering. The university is adjacent to the site and will have access to the PV plant as a training facility, and for educational purposes.
Getting the results
We installed and commissioned Zambia’s largest PV plant in only three weeks from start to finish. Having the support of the German Chamber of Commerce in Zambia, with their many business contacts helped smooth the way through some very challenging logistics. A small team trained Copperbelt employees in best practice operation and maintenance techniques with hands-on training in the most significant maintenance tasks, alongside the more in-depth training provided by GIZ.
We continue to provide monitoring from our control centre in Germany, but its now-qualified staff have unlimited access to the portal and are responsible for all hands-on maintenance, making a significant step towards their goal of becoming a fully integrated utility.
We’re delighted to have helped the Copperbelt Energy Company take their first steps into new, autonomous territory by helping them develop, build and operate their own solar power generation station. For us, this project was a great opportunity to venture further into the southern African market.