PPC takes concrete step towards 32MW solar plant, signs up contractor

Cement maker Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) Zimbabwe says it has secured a partner to build and operate a 32MW solar park to power up two of its plants.

The photovoltaic (PV) project will be sited at PPC’s clinker factory in Colleen Bawn, The Chronicle reports. The output of half of the solar farm’s installed capacity, 16MW, will be used for the company’s cement manufacturing operations at Colleen Bawn and Bulawayo. The excess power will be fed into the national power grid.

The two plants have capacity to produce 760 000 tonnes of cement a year. In total, adding output from the company’s Harare plant, PPC has capacity to produce 1.4 million tonnes annually.

The company has not disclosed the identity of the solar plant contractor. However, PPC’s head of operations Marvelous Sibanda was quoted as saying the winning bidder was a Zimbabwean company with technical partners based in South Africa.

The partner was selected from a tender that attracted 38 bidders. Project financing is now being arranged, Sibanda said. Construction of the PV farm is expected to take 18 months.

Solid plan

Floating the tender last year, PPC Zimbabwe said the Colleen Bawn plant consumes about 11MW and would need backup of at least 16 hours, while the Bulawayo factory needed 5MW and a back-up of 12 hours.

From its limestone quarry, Colleen Bawn provides the clinker, an essential ingredient in cement manufacturing, to both the Bulawayo and Harare plants.

In the six months to September last year, PPC’s volumes declined by 35% while revenue fell by 54%. The company attributed this to rising inflation, the weaker Zimbabwe dollar and regular power outages.

Apart from power shortages, Zimbabwean cement producers already face the threat of cheaper imports from the region, where there is spare capacity.

(PPC’s Harare plant/NewsDay)

PPC Zimbabwe, Lafarge Zimbabwe, Sino Zimbabwe, Livetouch and Pacstar Cement have a combined capacity of 2.6 million tonnes per year. National annual demand is 1.4 million tonnes.

PPC joins a growing list of manufacturers and miners who are installing solar power as an alternative to erratic power supply. The electricity crisis worsened last year after drought forced the Kariba power plant to drastically cut electricity generation.