Burkina, France Launch W. Africa's Biggest Solar Plant

Burkina Faso and France on Wednesday launched West Africa's biggest solar farm, a 33-megawatt facility designed to power tens of thousands of households and ease dependence on imported energy.

The 55-hectare (135-acre) outside the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, has an annual capacity equivalent to five percent of national production, according to the national power firm SONABEL.

Its 47.5-million-euro ($56.7 million) cost is being met by 25 million euros in donations from the European Union and a loan of 22.5 million from France's development agency.

The plant will avoid 26,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to its designers.

Cegelec, part of the French firm Vinci Energies, built the facility, designed to be a pilot scheme. French President Emmanuel Macron joined Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore for the inauguration.

Located in the heart of the Sahel region, Burkina Faso hopes to meet 30 percent of its electricity needs with photovoltaic solar panels by 2030.

A 17 MW extension is already being planned at the site to take overall production capacity there to 50 MW. 

Two other plants, one further west at Koudougou (of 20 MW) and a 10 MW version at Kaya, northeast of the capital, are also being planned.

At present, Burkina Faso produces only about 60 percent of the electricity it consumes, with imported power from Ghana and Ivory Coast helping to make up the shortfall.

Only 20 percent of the population is hooked up to the electricity grid, and many people use wood or butane gas bottles for cooking and lighting.

Source: Agence France Presse

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