Salima Solar plant inauguration Malawi
The Salima Solar team welcomes Malawian president, Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, to inaugurate the 60MW solar plant. Photo from InfraCo Africa Ltd via Twitter.

President of the Republic of Malawi Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera this week presided over the inauguration ceremony of the Salima Solar plant to mark the addition of 60MWac of additional clean energy to Malawi’s national grid.

As Malawi’s first utility-scale solar photovoltaic plant, the Salima Solar plant is contributing to the country’s ambition to minimise its carbon emissions whilst promoting economic growth through access to reliable energy access.

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Salima Solar was originally developed by JCM Power Corporation (JCM Power) and InfraCo Africa, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG). Dutch development bank FMO subsequently invested in the construction alongside JCM Power and InfraCo Africa. The companies will now operate and maintain the plant under the terms of a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement signed with the Malawian national utility, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi Limited (ESCOM).

Addressing an audience of government ministers and guests, Chakwera said: “Salima Solar is the first solar PV plant in Malawi to connect to the national grid. As such, it is a blueprint for future projects in a number of respects. One of the things it does is demonstrate that Malawi is an attractive destination for private sector investment in the energy sector. Not only does Malawi have a vast energy market owing to a demand for electricity that far outweighs the supply, but Malawi also boasts of a peaceful environment and strong regulatory frameworks.”

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“We must succeed at charting a path to development that is sustainable, so that future generations will see that we kept our track record of net zero carbon emissions intact. This solar power plant is a potent symbol of our commitment to that agenda, a commitment to building a new Malawi of access to clean and affordable energy, and I believe it is the first of many to come,” said Chakwera.

Following a tour of the 170-hectare site, Chakwera unveiled a plaque and switched on the power plant.

Speaking at the event, Malawi Development Director for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Fiona Ritchie said: “As we are witnessing here today, given Malawi’s huge potential for solar, wind and hydro power, there is a unique opportunity for Malawi to leapfrog over investment in expensive and outdated fossil fuels.”

Solar plant already gaining recognition

Since the inauguration ceremony the Salima Solar has been recognised as “Utility-scale solar project of the year” by the Africa Solar Industry Association (AFSIA). Accepting the award, InfraCo Africa’s Head of Business Development, Nabil Saimi said: “I am honoured to accept this award on behalf of the Salima Solar Project. The project has been a true collaboration between ourselves at InfraCo Africa, the wider PIDG and our partners, JCM Power. We have had strong support throughout from the Government of Malawi and the national utility, ESCOM, for our vision to deliver significant solar generation capacity to Malawi’s national grid.”

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“We are also extremely proud of the project’s work with local communities to support health outcomes and agricultural livelihoods and we look forward to continuing this work now that the plant is operational,” Saimi concluded.

Continuing their partnership, InfraCo Africa and JCM Power are working to construct the Golomoti Solar project in Malawi’s Dedza District. With support from Business Energy and Industrial Strategies International Climate Finance through Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst and RINA, Golomoti will be the first utility-scale solar grid-connected photovoltaic plant in sub-Saharan Africa to include a Battery Energy Storage System. Together the two projects will increase Malawi’s installed power generation capacity by over 80MW by early 2022.