10 December 2012 – British company Blue Energy is to establish a 155 MW photovoltaic (PV) plant in Ghana. The Nzema project will be able to provide electricity to more than 100,000 homes. Construction work on the US$400 million plant is due to start within 12 months, and the developer says it is optimistic that finance for the project will be confirmed within six months.

The 155 MW Nzema facility will increase Ghana’s generation capacity by 6%. A key element in helping the project go ahead has been Ghana’s renewable energy law under which the plant has been awarded a feed-in tariff for 20 years. These are premium prices guaranteed for the working life of the site.

Project director Douglas Coleman from Mere Power Nzema, which will build the plant, told BBC News, “The project has land, it has planning consent, it has a generating license, and it has received a feed in tariff.”The company behind the scheme is majority owned and funded by members of the Stadium group, a large European private asset and development company.

The power plant, which at the time of planning would be the fourth biggest of its kind in the world, will be the first major scheme to claim payments from Ghana’s feed in tariff incentive scheme, created by the government in 2011. Ghana has a target of increasing renewable energy capacity from its current 1% of the country’s energy mix to 10% by 2020.

Coleman told the Guardian newspaper that the company was using solar PV instead of the distinctive troughs used in concentrated solar power technology seen in north Africa and the Middle East in part because PV only requires light, not direct sunlight. The choice of PV means the farm will still generate electricity during the more than 100 cloudy days Ghana experiences each year.

The company expects to create 200 permanent jobs and 500 during the construction phase, which already has the go-ahead from planning authorities.Ghana recorded the fastest growth in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, with GDP growing at 14.3%, driven by oil production.