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500MV solar plant to turn Vic Falls into smart city

VICTORIA Falls is moving closer to becoming a smart tourism and green destination following plans to construct a renewable energy exhibition park and a 500MW solar plant which will be complemented by a tidal river plant on the Zambezi River.

Southpole Consulting, an international firm that was given Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status by the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida), is implementing the project.

Land measuring 300 hectares near the Victoria Falls International Airport has since been identified for the solar farm project.

Once the 500MW come on stream, they will boost Zimbabwe’s quest to attain energy self-sufficiency.

Critically, the power will improve availability of energy for both domestic and industrial users who are presently affected by load shedding due to low water levels in Lake Kariba.

Solar energy is equally important as it comes at a time when the world is calling for reduction in the use of thermal electricity to tackle the effects of climate change.

When Zimbabwe completed the expansion of Hwange Power Station, where 600MW were added through a US$1,4 billion facility from China, there was a jump in electricity supply, only for low water levels in Lake Kariba due to El Nino forcing a huge decline in power generation.

A combination of the Victoria Falls 500MW and the newly built 600MW from Hwange, plus the electricity from the other six units and from Independent Power Producers, should take Zimbabwe closer to energy self-sufficiency.

Southpole Consulting’s director of special projects, Engineer Tendai Tidings Musasa, said the multi-million-dollar project is expected to be launched on June 3, marking the start of the pilot stages.

Eng Musasa said Southpole Consulting is working closely with the Zambezi River Authority for the tidal river plant project since it holds rights as part of the planned US$4,5 billion Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Project.

Once implemented, the project will be a huge milestone for Victoria Falls, a city declared a Special Economic Zone and International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).

Already another 100MW solar farm is under construction with solar panels laid out for the initial 25MW phase as Victoria Falls inches closer to becoming a smart city, leveraging on partnerships between the Government and the private sector.

Eng Musasa said the massive project will enhance green tourism in Victoria Falls, whose economy revolves around tourism. The city will form the core of regional development, especially with the introduction of hydrogen technology.

He said plans are underway to establish a permanent renewable energy exhibition centre on-site near the airport.

The centre will subsequently become home to the Victoria Falls 100 Percent Renewable Energy Global Exhibition Summit.

“We are clinically very focused on the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone. Our sphere of play requires a lot of international input and Victoria Falls needs those incentives to digest the kind of investment that we are bringing,” said Eng Musasa.

“We have 300ha of estate next to the Victoria Falls Airport and we plan to do a 500MW solar plant and a data centre. We thought Victoria Falls was now ripe for such an exhibition for utilisation of the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) after its declaration as an IFSC.”

Eng Musasa said Victoria Falls, as a destination, has competition hence they have teamed up with International Renewable Energy.

“We are focusing on the same destination so we combine it with the permanent exhibition. So, the 6th International Renewable Energy Conference might be held at the airport,” he said.

Eng Musasa said the project rides on the goodwill that has been established by the International Renewable Energy Conference and the 100 Percent Summit which will be a permanent exhibition.

“It will be the same model just like the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and Harare Show Grounds which are permanently held at the Zimbabwe Exhibition Centre and the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show, but in this case, the focus will be on renewable energy,” he said.

Eng Musasa said there is a need for Zimbabwe to learn from other countries in the region like South Africa and Namibia which have invested in hydrogen technology.

“Southpole Consulting was declared an SEZ by the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency, and we are focused on 100 percent renewable energy business. We have gone a step higher to market renewable energy and hydrogen technology,” he said.

“Victoria Falls’ economy is about tourism and, therefore, it can do with the industry being driven by clean hydrogen double-decker buses for the whole Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.”

Eng Musasa said the exhibition is set to be launched on June 3

“The initial chapter will be from June 3 to June 17 this year and on our exhibition portfolio we are using shipping container architecture set-up in a botanical park of 300ha north of the airport. We have signed to put up an airport park to set up the solar park and the 3rd of June is an introduction to the world of the exhibition,” he said.

“We are looking at launching this on an unlicenced 99kw solar PV plant based in the airport park. We want to walk the talk in Victoria Falls and set up a pilot plant of the tidal river and a solar plant on site that powers the whole exhibition.”

Eng Musasa said the solar and exhibition park projects will significantly benefit the community through job opportunities and also expanding local conference facilities capacity.

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