The largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant on the African continent was launched last week by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and Masdar, the renewable energy company from Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates).
The new facility which located in the capital city of Nouakchott is the largest solar PV plant in Africa, with its 15 MW power generating capacity. It will account for 10% of Mauritania’s total energy capacity, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 21,225 tons per year, and supplying energy to nearly 10,000 homes in Nouakchott.
“Globally renewable energy has tremendous potential to meet our growing energy needs, and with the business case for renewables improving rapidly, the time has never been better for renewables,” Mr. Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA said. “We are encouraged to see one of our early Members, Mauritania beginning their transition to an affordable secure and sustainable energy system.”
To date Mauritania’s electricity grid, like many in Africa and around the world, has been reliant on expensive diesel generators and exposed to price volatility, energy security and sustainability issues. The nation’s demand for energy grew by an estimated 12 percent in 2012, compounding the pressure on their 144-megawatts of installed capacity and resulting in severe energy shortages.
“Energy access is a pathway to economic and social opportunity,” said Mauritania President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz during the inauguration of the solar plant. “Electrification, through sustainable sources of energy, is critical in ensuring that our people have access to basic services and is a step toward improving our infrastructure and long-term economic development.”
With strong solar and wind energy resources, Mauritania has the potential to derive a significant portion of its electricity capacity from clean, secure, and sustainable sources of energy. Its wind energy potential alone is almost four times its annual energy demand.
While 15 MW is not very much for a photovoltaic power plant (typical solar plants of this type usually generate 50-200 MW of electricity) there are several larger projects currently under construction in South African Republic, Zimbabwe and several other African countries.