April 7, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Because Sierra Leone’s second largest city of Bo, and surrounding communities are in total darkness for three months each year, Solar Era Holdings, a Sierra Leonean power provider, is prepared to start providing 25megawatts of solar generated power to the city.
This was disclosed recently to this reporter by the Director of Solar Era Holdings, Mrs. Sophie Johnson, during the launch of a 5mw solar farm project in Bo.
Already, Solar Era Holdings has leased 30 acres of land along the Bo-Kenema highway, where it will build a US$9m plant as part of the first phase of the 25mw solar project, targeting an initial five megawatts.
Sierra Leoneans experience power outage during the dry season because the capital, Freetown, and Bo and Kenema in the south-east, are heavily dependent on hydro electric power supply.
Mrs. Sophie Johnson noted that while the government of Sierra Leone believes that demand for electricity supply will reach one thousand megawatts (1000mw) by 2018, nearly ninety percent (90%) of households do not have access to electricity.
She added that the three darkest months of the year in Sierra Leone are February, March and April, when the water level at the Bumbuna hydro dam gets drastically low.
“President Koroma in his ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ declared energy to be a key priority for his government, with access to electricity provided to even the most remote and vulnerable communities. Recognising the need for investment in the energy sector to address this challenge, the government created the framework to encourage independent power producers into the energy market,” she said.
The Solar Era Director disclosed that her aim was to bring power to Africa and thanked the government for allowing them to move one step closer towards achieving their goal. “We are proud to be able to contribute to the development of Bo-Kenema area and to help communities thrive and businesses succeed,” she noted.
She said Solar Era is a renewable energy project development company with offices across Africa, adding that the company identifies local energy needs and sources the appropriate international expertise, technology and finance to deliver cost efficient solutions to create local capacity and job opportunities.
“Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydro and biomass produce 22 percent of the world’s electricity. Solar energy is a cost effective way in which to meet Sierra Leone’s need for sustainable economic growth,” he maintained.
Albert Smith of Solar Era disclosed that Solar Era Holdings is part of the Africa Growth and Energy Solutions (AGES) which is based in the United Kingdom, with experience in developing renewable energy projects.
He disclosed that AGES license authorises it to construct, own, operate and maintain a generation set, with the term of the license being one year, although renewable for 20 years.
He noted that Bo would host the first solar PV plant in Sierra Leone, which could provide power to approximately 100,000 homes and business.
“AGES envisages that this project will contribute to local enterprise development, agriculture, industry and health facilities. It will also create jobs both directly and indirectly, with a focus on women and girls, contributing to the alleviation of poverty,” he concluded.