Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THREE hospitals in Matabeleland region are set to benefit from solar power plants through a project being implemented by a consortium of local independent power producers (IPPs) and German partners.
Enduring Sun Energy, which is a consortium of Zimbabweans as well as Geobase Clean Energy and Frenell of Germany are spearheading the project which will lead to construction of solar power plants and energy storage facilities at Manama Mission Hospital, Maphisa District Hospital, both in Matabeleland South and Tsholotsho District Hospital in Matabeleland North.
The project has already started in Manama where a 2,5MW plant is being constructed while a feasibility study will be done in Tsholotsho soon.
Enduring Sun Energy, registered locally as an IPP, is targeting to construct utility scale solar photovoltaic (PV) battery storage projects in Manama, Tsholotsho and Maphisa, with on-location hospitals as prioritised supply pivots.
The projects will enable sustainable economic development progress within surrounding communities, especially by availing reliable power supply for expanded irrigation in regions susceptible to regular droughts, powering surrounding institutions and enhancing e-services.
The Tsholotsho plant, whose exact location is still being determined but next to the hospital, is expected to have an initial capacity of 3MW, likely to be expanded after completion of the power deeds assessment exercise.
After touring Manama Mission Hospital recently, Enduring Sun Energy officials visited Tsholotsho accompanied by Minister of State in the Office of Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, Retired Major General Sibangumuzi Khumalo, who is also Tsholotsho North legislator and his newly elected counterpart for Tsholotsho South, Cde Musa Ncube, and toured the hospital and nearby pieces of land in preparation for the project.
The projected 3MW in Tsholotsho is an estimate and the actual capacity of the plant to be constructed will be known after completion of the feasibility study which will be done simultaneously with the energy demand assessment that will determine how much electricity is being consumed presently, how much is needed and energy storage capacity.
This is expected to start soon, according to Enduring Sun Energy executive director Mr Gibson Nyathi.
He said the project scope is similar to the Manama project where a 2,5MW plant will power Manama Mission Hospital, schools, a business centre and other institutions including the community.
The project is expected to catalyse economic and rural development in the benefiting district through reliable, efficient clean energy for domestic and irrigation use.
Mr Nyathi said in Manama, the energy demand capacity showed that 1,75MW of electricity was needed but they oversized the plant to 2,5MW because there are many consumers with electricity boxes that are not functional because of lack of power, and would increase demand once there is reliable energy.
“What we have done with German partners is to design a solar power model which is engineered to be a modular power supply model that is replicable, to enable expedited construction of a projects pipeline.
As an IPP, we are planning solar plants at Manama, Tsholotsho and Maphisa hospitals as well as an irrigation near Maphisa,” said Mr Nyathi.
He said a feasibility study comprising a power demand assessment to determine how much electricity is needed in Tsholotsho will start soon as they have already compiled a report to potential funders.
Focus will then shift to Maphisa after Tsholotsho.
“So far, using available information in Tsholotsho, the preliminary power generation capacity is 3MW, subject to confirmation by a feasibility study, which will contain a detailed on-site Energy Demand Assessment (EDA).
Data gathered through a Tsholotsho focused EDA will ultimately determine the definitive power generation capacity of the Tsholotsho solar power plant,” said Mr Nyathi.
The 3MW is only enough to supply existing consumers while additional users will push demand higher and the plant could be bigger.
The general project cost is also yet to be determined, but the Manama plant is being constructed at a cost of US$4.5 million.
The location of the Tsholotsho Solar PV Battery Storage Project is still to be decided upon, but is likely to be on land adjacent to the hospital.
Tsholotsho generally lags behind in terms of economic development due to limited activity as a result of perennial electricity challenges.
This will transform the district’s economic activity and Mr Nyathi said the plant will take nine months to complete from date of commencement of construction.
The solar plant will be fitted with specially made German panels embedded with ability to access wifi from the satellite and will have a lifespan of a minimum of 30 years.
Mr Nyathi said the hospital is critical to livelihoods hence should have efficient clean energy supply, and Tsholotsho District Hospital will then be capacitated to attract state-of-the-art equipment, services and medical personnel.
Rtd Maj Gen Khumalo said the solar project will catapult Tsholotsho to growth.
“We went to see a similar project in Manama where they have progressed and if that happens here, it will help us grow.
I think as Tsholotsho we need to implement irrigation which is a Government policy to have a project in each district and ward,” he said.
Cde Ncube said a stakeholder consultation will be done before commencement of the project.
“We are grateful of the investments that are being made in the province and into solar energy which is key towards mitigating impact of climate change and electricity shortage especially in hospitals.
We hope that after completion of the plant there will be adequate power in Tsholotsho with excess being fed into the grid, in line with the country’s economic blueprint, National Development Strategy (NDS1),” she said.
President Mnangagwa recently commissioned a 5MW solar plant at Cross Mabale in Hwange, while a 100MW facility is also being constructed in the same district as the province invests in clean energy.
Article Source: The Chronicle