Afghanistan will build its first 20-megawatt solar power plant in a bid to meet rising energy demand in a country that imports most of its electricity.
The project in the capital will be funded by the Asian Development Bank, which is providing $45 million, according to a statement emailed on Sunday. It will be built in the Naghlu area of Kabul’s Surobi district.
“Considering 300 sunny days per year with free solar irradiation to generate solar power, it makes Afghanistan an attractive country for implementing solar power projects,” said Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi in the statement.
The rapidly declining cost of solar equipment has opened new markets in developing countries for the technology. Until recently, it was seen as an expensive way to generate electricity, but prices for solar panels have plummeted 62 percent in the past five years, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Photovoltaic panels are now being used as a cost-effective way to bring electricity to areas with unstable grids or no access to power at all, particularly in the developing areas of Asia, such as Afghanistan, as well as sub-Saharan Africa.
“The demand for power is rapidly growing across Afghanistan,” Samuel Tumiwa, a country director at the bank, said in the statement. “The new on-grid solar power generation project, which is the largest of its kind in Afghanistan, will not only provide access to a clean and reliable power supply, but also demonstrate the viability of future renewable energy investments through public-private partnerships.”
Afghanistan mainly imports electricity. The country’s total demand is about 3 gigawatts, with domestic generation at 300 megawatts, according to Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, a government-owned organization which manages its power supply.
Although the international community has invested billions of dollars in the nation’s energy sector, the country still faces significant deficiencies. Only 32 percent of Afghanistan’s more than 30 million people have access to grid-connected power, according to the bank.
The solar project should be built 18 months after its construction contract is signed, Wahidullah Tawhidi, a spokesman of government-owned utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, said by phone. It will meet part of the electricity needs in Kabul as well as the eastern province of Nangarhar and Laghman, he said.
In September, Dynasty Oil & Gas PVT Ltd. of India began building a 10-megawatt solar power plant funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development in southern Kandahar city, Tawhid said. Kabul’s solar power plant is the largest to be built, he said.
The solar plant in the capital will generate at least 43,000 megawatts-hours of power and avoid the equivalent of 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the first year after it is complete, according to the statement.