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Chinese-built solar power stations help 'light Africa'

By Lyu Qiang Source: People's Daily Updated: 2020-10-28


A panorama of the off-grid PV power station in Qorile village, Somali region of Ethiopia. [Photo/Courtesy of CET]   

As nearly one thousand photovoltaic (PV) panels sparkled in the sun and colorful flags fluttered in the breeze in the tawny Gobi desert, an off-grid PV power station project undertaken by a Chinese company in Somali region, Ethiopia, was officially completed and electrified recently.

Thanks to the project, nearly 6,000 people from more than 2,000 families in Qorile village near the project got access to clean electricity as the village was brightly lit.

The day that the project was completed was a memorable day, as since when the dark night would be lit by electric lamps and children could read in the light, said a local villager, noting that they finally got electricity that they had been earnestly longing for.

Ethiopia suffers serious power shortages, with only about 30 percent of the people in the country having access to electricity. Since most of the rural areas of Ethiopia are far from the main power grid, building small-scale off-grid PV and wind power stations with energy storage systems based on natural resources has become an important solution to power supply in the country.

The four PV power stations built by Chinese company were the earliest among Ethiopia's first batch of 12 off-grid solar power stations to be completed, put into operation, and bring light to the villages where the stations are located, said Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia's Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, at the completion ceremony of the off-grid PV power station project in Somali region.

The project has promoted the implementation of Ethiopia's plan to bring power to all citizens by 2025, Bekele noted.

The four off-grid PV power stations Bekele mentioned, including the off-grid PV power station in Somali region, are located in remote areas of the east, southwest, and west of Ethiopia. They were built by China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Co., Ltd. (CET), a subsidiary of State Grid Corporation of China.

Equipped with energy storage batteries, these off-grid PV power stations can convert solar energy into electricity through smart off-grid PV systems. People can monitor data on the operation of these systems via mobile app.

The off-grid PV power station project in Somali region is among the first batch of the demonstration projects of the Lighting Africa program funded by the World Bank. It was also the first pilot project of the program in Ethiopia.

According to the Chen Chao, chief representative of CET in Ethiopia, the designed annual power output of the station is 1.42 million kilowatt-hours, and that the power station can guarantee the stability and reliability of electricity consumption for local residents.

The completion of the off-grid PV power station has changed the lives of people in Qorile village. In the past, the only electrical appliance of most of the families in the village was mobile phone, and the hospital in the village relied on diesel generators for electricity.

After the PV power station was built, the village installed road lamps, and villagers started to buy higher-power home appliances like electric fans and televisions.

"Guaranteeing power supply for remote African villages makes us feel proud," said Zhang Zhihui, project manager of the off-grid PV power station project in Somali region.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction of the project encountered many difficulties. In an effort to ensure relevant construction tasks could be finished as scheduled while following strict rules for epidemic prevention and control, CET sent a dedicated medical team and a technical team to the construction site, and deployed anti-epidemic medical supplies for the project.

While doing a good job in epidemic prevention and control, the Chinese company has ensured high quality in the construction of the project, said Bekele.

These Chinese builders should be applauded for holding fast to their posts during the pandemic, Bekele said, nothing that this demonstrated the strength and sense of responsibility of Chinese companies.

The government of Somali region awarded CET a certificate in recognition of the outstanding contribution the company made to the development of Somali.

These Chinese-built power stations have set good examples for the Lighting Africa initiative, said the World Bank, adding that the organization would use these projects as models and intensify efforts to continue promoting similar projects in the more than 200 Ethiopian villages that don't have electricity, so as to benefit 5.7 million families by guaranteeing that 35 percent of the country's power supply is provided by off-grid PV power stations. 

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