Zimbabwe industrial power users lay out their plan to raise US$250m for floating solar panels

This file photo shows floating solar panels in Brazil. A consortium of energy users in Zim plans a similar project (Evaristo Sa / AFP Photo)

By Godfrey Marawanyika

Zimbabwe’s industrial electricity consumers and exporters aim to raise $250 million to build the first phase of floating solar panels on Lake Kariba.

Members of the Intensive Energy User Group, which also includes mining companies, will own 52% of a development company for the project to be located on the lake, according to a pre-feasibility study.

The electricity generated by the station, initially planned for 250MW, will be sold to the group and other qualifying customers under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

Zimbabwe is facing acute electricity shortages that have resulted in blackouts lasting more than half a day because of low water levels that stifle generation from a hydropower plant on the lake and a thermal power station that experiences frequent breakdowns. Any excess output could also be exported throughout the region, according to the developers.

“It is envisaged that the generated electricity will be fed directly into the national grid for consumption by the IEUG, and/or sold to other suitable off-takers including trading on the Southern African Power Pool,” the Kariba Floating Solar Power Station Development Company said in its report.

The Zimbabwe government sovereign wealth fund will hold a 10% stake in the company, with the remaining 38% available to investors including development banks.

Infrastructure investors including African Finance Corporation and Africa50 as well as private energy companies will be approached, according to Caleb Dengu, non-executive director at IEUG and a managing partner of CDF Trust and Consulting., a promoter of the project. A prospectus is being prepared for a road show, he said in an interview in Harare.