Lesotho’s Mafeteng solar power plant aims to bring energy to 70% of Lesotho’s citizens who remain without access to power.
The project, a 70MWp photovoltaic solar farm in the Ha-Ramathole district of Mafeteng, was given the green light after the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China provided funding. It will break ground in early 2021.
The undertaking, which has been in the works for nearly three years, was given a significant boost when financing by China’s Exim Bank was announced. Although the exact amount was not disclosed to the press, Ma Guoliang, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy, said the figure was around $121 million.
Construction of the 70MWp facility will take place on a 220-hectare piece of land in Mafeteng, an hour outside the African Kingdom’s capital, Maseru. The operation, undertaken by Chinese heavy industry firms, China Sinoma International Engineering, and TBEA Xinjiang New Energy, is scheduled to be two-phased and will begin in five months, according to Afrik21.
The project’s first phase will see an initial 30MWp added to the grid and cost an estimated $70 million. The second phase, which is reported to require an additional $77 million in funding and is responsible for the remaining 40MWp, is only planned to go ahead once an evaluation of the first phase is completed.
Currently, only 30% of Lesotho’s residents have access to electricity according to statistics released by the United States Trade and Development Agency. The majority of the landlocked nation’s electricity comes from the 72MW Muela Hydro plant.
The Lesotho government, keen to improve access to electricity, is planning to increase the rate of access to energy by 40% in the near term.
Lesotho has not been idle in its quest to provide access to energy for its people. In March, online media outlet, Construction Review Online, said Lesotho had been granted $40 million by the International Development Association. The funding is being used to increase access to electricity for small and medium enterprises, rural and peri-urban housing, and economic centres. The project will use both off-grid electrification systems and grid extension.
Authorities want to rehabilitate existing substations and build new facilities – these will provide electricity to industrial and farming communities in Butha-Buthe and Berea.
The Mafeteng solar plant should alleviate the growing energy crisis in Lesotho and lower its electricity costs by decreasing imports.