POWER Engineers Incorporated (POWER) is providing services that will support the development of power generation in Sierra Leone, where only about 13 out of every 100 people have some access to electrical power.
POWER’s services will support plans for a two-phase solar power project near Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone. The first phase involves a 5 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) plant and the second phase would add a PV–diesel hybrid plant of at least 20 MW and may include energy storage.
Sierra Leonean independent power producer Solar Era Holdings Limited selected POWER to conduct a feasibility study that will provide the information and analysis needed to build a project that is sustainable and commercially successful. Solar Era is investing $9 million in the first phase of the project. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S. government’s project preparation agency, awarded a grant to Solar Era of $856,000 for the feasibility study.
POWER’s study will include evaluations of the solar generation potential, diesel hybrid and energy storage options that may reduce the need for diesel, electrical interconnection, and estimates of capital and operating costs. POWER also will develop bidding specifications for engineering, procurement and construction services.
“We are pleased to be part of this first solar project in Sierra Leone, which will bring new sources of clean renewable energy to the people of the region,” said Mike Long, POWER’s senior project manager. “Delivering reliable power will allow the country’s leaders to pursue their goals for economic growth.”
For the study, POWER is teaming up with GreenMax Capital Advisors and EDA Consultants. GreenMax is a transaction advisor on clean energy that will prepare the commercial and project financing plan. GreenMax will be assisting with the project financing arrangements to give the developer better exposure to potential lenders and possibly co-development partners. EDA is a Sierra Leonean engineering firm that will perform local geotechnical investigations, surveying and the environmental review.
POWER has extensive expertise with renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass. This expertise includes integrating renewable sources into microgrids, utility power grids and within regional transmission organizations.
The solar project advances the objectives of Power Africa, a program being led by the United States that seeks to make electricity more available across sub-Saharan Africa. In Sierra Leone, the city of Bo and surrounding communities are in total darkness at night for three months each year. That is because Bo, as well as the capital city of Freetown and Kenema in the southeast are heavily dependent on hydroelectric power. During February, March and April, the water level at the Bumbuna hydroelectric dam gets drastically low and is unable to generate power.
Generation output from the 356 MW of total nameplate capacity in Sierra Leone – only 99.6 MW of which is actually grid-connected – barely meets about 50 percent of current demand (a little more than 700 MW as of 2016), causing frequent outages of significant duration. The Sierra Leone government projects that demand for electricity will reach 1,000 MW by 2018.
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