After spending many decades in the dark, the central district of Soroti in Uganda has finally seen the light following the unveiling of the largest solar power plant in East Africa. The plant, which is estimated to be worth $90 million, covers 33 hectares and is expected to produce approximately 20 gigawatt hours of electricity every year.
The power plant was officially launched on December 12th and the government of Uganda is optimistic that it will transform lives across the region.
“The plant is going to power 40,000 homes, businesses, schools, and hospitals across Soroti and [the] wider Uganda. To put this into perspective, the Soroti district itself is around 66,000 households,” the executive chairman of Access Power, a Dubai-based electricity company, Reda El Chaar told CNN.
Untapped Solar Resources
According to Phillip Karumuna, an operations manager at the plant, they chose to erect the plant in Soroti because the area has more solar resources than any other part of eastern Uganda.
He adds that since the area doesn’t receive a lot of rainfall, it automatically qualifies to be the perfect spot for adequate solar power generation.
“This means this plant will produce lots of power for years to come,” Karumuna said.
Local communities in the area say that they’re excited about the progress that the solar power plant will mean for the region.
Electricity in the area would necessitate the introduction of important amenities, such as computers and the Internet. It also means that students in the area will have an opportunity to acquire technological expertise like their peers in surrounding urban centers.
“I can see (electricity) poles going up by our school, so I’m optimistic. When I learned they were putting a solar plant near us, I just felt happy. I knew a lot of opportunities were coming,” Telemartha Ochakara, a local head teacher, said.
Even though many villages in the region will have to wait a while longer to access electricity, Access Power says the multi-million dollar project is just the first of many.
Currently, only 20 percent of Uganda’s population is connected to power.
“There are no technical reasons that prevent us from that expansion. And we definitely believe that this is in the books,” El Chaar said.
The solar power plant is being funded by a consortium of international investors including the European Union and Access Power.
BY FREDRICK NGUGI
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