Egypt is constructing a huge solar park that is expected to be the world’s largest upon completion. The Benban solar complex which will house 32 power plants, is located near the southern city of Aswan.
All the plants are scheduled to be powered up by mid 2019. They will be capable of churning out a combined 1,650MW of electricity enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
IFC believes that Benban has far-reaching potential to increase Egypt’s energy generation capacity.
The total cost of the project will range between US$3.5bn and US$4bn. Lamya Youssef, the head of private sector power at the state-run Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company says that Egypt needs large investments in infrastructure, which the government cannot afford on its own. As a result, there’s need for private sector investments.
IFC and a consortium of other lenders have pledged US $653m to support the project. The financing will help 13 private companies build and operate power plants at the site.
Solar energy potential
According to Mouayed Makhlouf, IFC Director for the Middle East and North Africa, this project will help Egypt tap into its massive potential for solar energy. It will also scale back its use of expensive and polluting fossil fuels. That is especially important with the specter of climate change looming. The park is also expected to employ 4,000 people once it is fully operational.
Other institutions that will fund the project include: Africa Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Arab Bank of Bahrain, CDC Group, Europe Arab Bank, Finance in Motion, FinnFund, ICBC, and OeEB of Austria.
Although Egypt has a huge solar energy potential, high cost of solar plants installations has meant that for decades Egypt has relied on fossil fuels to power its towns and villages.