Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter
GIANT cement manufacturer, Pretoria Portland Cement Zimbabwe, has unveiled a $40 million investment in solar power for its Bulawayo and Colleen Bawn factories, which will increase the company’s energy needs and help reduce the deficit supply in the country.
The planned projects are expected to produce a combined generation of 30 MW, of which 17 MW is for internal consumption, with the excess 13 MW to be injected into the national grid.
The Bulawayo power station will set up a 10 MW power station, of which 5 MW will be for internal use while the Colleen Bawn power station will develop a capacity of 20 MW, with 12 MW being used internally.
The massive solar power projects will also reduce the cement industry’s carbon footprint and go a long way to furthering the ideals of the Second Republic’s National Development Strategy (NDS1) of increasing energy supply by expanding the energy mix by promoting independent electricity production.
The Bulawayo plant will be equipped with a 10 MW solar power plant that will cover over 22 hectares of land.
More than 20,000 panels will be mounted on the ground at this site and will be connected to the Bulawayo crushing plant and the ZESA network.
At the Colleen Bawn plant, the plant will have a 20 MW solar photovoltaic plant erected to cover over 45 hectares of land with 18 megawatt hours of battery energy storage system (BESS) to enable the furnace to operate for four hours during the overnight power outage.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony in Bulawayo yesterday, Minister of Industry and Trade, Sekai Nzenza, who represented President Mnangagwa, said PPC Zimbabwe’s contribution to the development and growth of infrastructure is commendable.
Over the years, she said, PPC has provided critical contributions to several national projects, including the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, Hwange Thermal Power Plant Units 7 and 8, and the Beitbridge-Harare Highway. underway, among other projects.
Dr Nzenza said that by switching to solar power, PPC Zimbabwe was complementing the government’s efforts in mitigating and adapting to climate change and improving the sustainability of the country’s energy sector.
“I have been informed that the two solar farm projects will help meet the company’s power generation needs of 17 MW, with the excess power of 13 MW being fed into the national grid,” she said. declared.
“I urge others in the cement industry to take inspiration from this initiative and also reduce the carbon intensity of their production processes.
“These should include the use of technical solutions such as fuel switching, improving energy efficiency and replacing clinker.
“I further challenge other businesses and industries to put in place deliberate actions and targets to drive renewable energy consumption towards a thriving economy that has a positive impact on the environment and a clean energy future. “
Dr Nzenza said the government looked forward to the rapid construction of the proposed solar power plants and other renewable energy facilities.
In his remarks, PPC’s Supply Chain and Strategic Projects Manager, Dr. Marvellas Sibanda, said the project will contribute to Zimbabwe’s National Renewable Energy Policy, which aims to achieve 26.5% of electricity. total electricity supply from renewable energy sources by 2030 as part of initiatives under Vision 2030.
He said PPC Zimbabwe was the first company in the construction industry to develop large-scale solar PV power plants.
PPC Zimbabwe is a major cement producer with a crushing capacity of over 1.4 million tonnes a year, he said.
Dr Sibanda said that due to the high consumption in the production process, it was essential to have a reliable power supply that also addresses climate change mitigation issues.
“The cement industry is an energy-intensive industry, with energy being a major cost driver accounting for 30% of operational costs.
“The power supply challenges facing ZETDC and the nation at result in the destruction of our operations and, in some cases, property damage,” he said.
Dr Sibanda said that the bidding process for the projects attracted 30 companies around the world and after several tenders, a local Independent Power Producer (IPP) named ATC Consortium, which is working with Sinohydro of China was selected in 2020.
“The IPP will build, own and operate the solar installations. A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) has been signed between PPC and IPP for a term of 20 years, after which the assets will be transferred to PPC,” he said.
“The cost of the project is estimated at $40 million for the two plants.”
On the technical aspects, Dr Sibanda said the solar power plant will have quality bifacial 535 watt solar panels on two levels, which will have single axis tracking to capture maximum sunlight throughout the day.
The bi-facial maximizes the area of the ground by absorbing the irradiation of the sun and the reflectance of the ground.
The solar photovoltaic generator will be connected to string inverters of 225 kW each to convert solar energy into usable AC energy.
Both solar farms will be connected to the grid and excess energy will be stored in the grid.
“The project will create jobs during construction and a permanent stand will be used for the 20-year power purchase agreement for the cleaning and maintenance of the solar plant,” added Dr Sibanda.
“To demonstrate the high quality nature of the project, over 40,000 panels will be floor mounted on site and connected to excess capacity.
“Colleen Bawn will use 12MW of the 20MW produced, which means 35% of the energy produced will be fed into the grid and the Bulawayo plant will use 5MW of the 10MW produced, which means 5% of the energy will be fed into the national grid.
“The solar photovoltaic power plants will improve the quality of electricity across all sites, which will enable PPC Zimbabwe to operate at maximum capacity to meet current demand and subsequently drive economic growth in the power sector. construction.”
The groundbreaking event was observed by the Ministers of Provincial Affairs and Decentralization of Matabeleland North and South, Richard Moyo and Abednico Ncube, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Raj Modi, several government officials and advisers from the Umguza Rural District Council.