Consortium to build large solar field in Rwanda

JERUSALEM (AP) — A Dutch company said Monday it has begun construction of a solar field in Rwanda in what it said would be the first such large-scale project in eastern Africa.

Gigawatt Global Coopereratief said it had closed the $23.7 million financing for the project and that construction began last week.

Yosef Abramowitz, president of Gigawatt Global and CEO of Energiya Global Capital, Gigawatt's Israeli affiliate, said the 8.5 megawatt project will provide 8 percent of Rwanda's electricity. It is expected to go online this summer.

Rwanda, like many parts of Africa, suffers from dire shortages of electricity. The government aims to bring electricity to 50 percent of the population by 2017.

Abramowitz said the project is "proof positive" that building a utility-scale solar field in Africa is feasible. "We believe in power for the people who need it most. Now we've shown it's commercially viable," he said.

Consortium members include the Norwegian government's development fund Norfund, Norwegian-based Scatec Solar, Dutch development bank FMO and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund. It also includes grant money from the British, Finnish, Austrian and American governments.

The field is being built on land belonging to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a facility built for youth orphaned by the 1994 Rwandan genocide and modeled after an Israeli post-Holocaust orphanage.