French renewable energy firm Voltalia has been awarded the contract to build a 12MW solar power plant at Blanket Mine in Zimbabwe.
Caledonia Mining Corporation Plc, Blanket Mine’s holding company, successfully raised US$13-million in September to fund the project which is expected to supply 27% of the mine’s total electricity demand.
Caledonia settled on Voltalia to carry out the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract of the 12MW Solar power plant project following a call for tenders launched in 2019. The project is expected to be Commissioned in the last quarter of 2021.
The Solar power plant project, according to Caledonia Mining Corporation plans, will be implemented in several phases with the first phase allowing for planning after the signing of the EPC contract with Voltalia.
Founded in 2005, Voltalia is an international company in the renewable energy sector, producing energy and providing services in renewable energy production from solar, wind, hydro and biomass, also combining storage solutions. In Africa, the company is already active in Morocco, Tanzania, Egypt, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Burundi, and Malawi.
An initial design phase for the project will lead to the procurement and construction, subject to the conclusion of an EPC contract between the two firms.
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According to Caledonia, the completion of the project will significantly help improve the quality of grid power of Blanket mine and reduce any further deterioration which would necessitate increased use of diesel generators, a more expensive energy source than grid power.
The clean energy project is aimed at not only to reduce the ecological footprint of the Blanket mine, but also to minimise the impact of load shedding caused by the obsolescence and production shortfall of Zimbabwe’s national electricity grid.
The load shedding problem is aggravated by the drought that is causing the level of the Kariba Dam, Zimbabwe’s main electricity generating infrastructure, to go down. With a capacity of 1,319 MW, Kariba Dam supplies electricity to the national power grids of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Caledonia raised the money for the plant from a share sales process on the New York Stock Exchange.
Caledonia’s Blanket Mine is one of the many miners in Zimbabwe investing in alternative energy to keep their operations running uninterrupted in response to unpredictable power supply from the power utility ZESA.