Taking advantage of its plentiful sunshine and extensive land space, Egypt has resolved to forge the world’s largest solar energy park, dubbed Benben SolarPark, in the southern city of Aswan.
The project, at estimated cost of US$3.5-4 billion, represents fresh effort on the part of the Egyptian government in developing renewable energy, following failure in a previous plan to boost the share of such energy to 20% by 2014. Due to the setback, Egypt, which owns the largest oil refinery in Africa, still relies heavily on imported oil now.
The projected park will be divided into 41 separate areas, each accommodating multiple private PV power stations, which will be connected to four high-voltage grids before linkage to an ultra-large 220 Kw grid 12 kilometers away from the park, according to Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA).
Prospective investors will have to sign a 25-year agreement with the NREA but will be entitled to insurance coverage against political risk totaling US$210 million in scale, offered by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank.
Egyptian officials in charge are confident that PV power stations in the park will provide 1.6-2 GW of solar energy by 2019, supplying to the need of 350,000 people and accounting for 20% of the nation’s renewable-energy supply. The International Finance Corp. (IFC), under the World Bank Group, predicts that the park, spanning 372 square kilometers in space, will accommodate 32 PV power stations with total capacity of 16.5 GW eventually. The park will offer critical support for economic development, supplementing insufficient finance of the government in funding massive infrastructure indispensable for the nation’s economic development, according Lamya Youssef, a ranking official of the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC).
Philippe LeHouérou, chief executive of the IFC, is upbeat about the project, saying that reformative measures of the Egyptian government will facilitate private investments, adding that the project will create many job openings and offer Egyptian people reliable clean energy.
Egypt embraces green energy
Thanks to its aggressive policy, Egypt ranked 19th place worldwide in terms of green-energy supply in 2017, up by 23 notches, representing the second fastest advancement.
In Oct. 2017, the IFC already completed a US$653 million funding program for construction of 13 PV power stations in Egypt. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) followed suit in Nov. 2017, offering to fund 16 PV power stations with total capacity of 750 MW in the nation.
Along with cost reduction of solar power, the scale of PV power stations has become ever larger, such as the 1.52 GW PV power station, the world’s largest, in the Tengri Desert of China’s Ningxia Province. China also hosts the world’s largest floating PV power system, a 40 MW facility in an abandoned mine pit in Anhui Province. China, however, will yield its championship to Egypt, following the completion of the aforementioned project.