Tororo Solar

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Energy
Tororo Solar Plant

Tororo Solar is a 10 MW utility-scale solar PV farm, located in Eastern Uganda.

1. Involved organizations

Building Energy is a multinational, vertically-integrated company, operating as a Global Integrated IPP in the Renewable Energy Industry on four continents. It’s active in all stages, from the development of projects to the actual sale of energy. With a pipeline of over 2,600 MW in 20 countries, and a short-term construction pipeline of 700 MW worth of generating assets over the next two years, Building Energy is positioned to be one of the major players on the international renewable energy scene.

As a leading impact investor, FMO supports sustainable private sector growth in developing countries and emerging markets by investing in ambitious projects and entrepreneurs.

This case study is part of SolarPlaza's Africa Solar Impact Cases Report

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2. Project origin

Concept of the project

Under its ‘GET FiT’ facility, Germany’s KfW issued a tender for the development of two first utility-scale solar plant in Uganda, one of the first major solar development plans in the region. After the issue of the Tender, Building Energy carefully analyzed the provisions and rules included on it, and started scouting potential sites and beginning research accordingly. They started their research by identifying the most suitable existing UETCL’s electrical substation at transmission voltage, thus have narrowed the search area. Then a selection was made of several potential suitable areas, which were ranked on strict selection criteria (for instance: private land, uncultivated land, without resident people and without environmental or social constraints). Moreover, several meetings with village chiefs were conducted, in order to inform them about the research and obtain their blessing, support and indications. This process led Building Energy to identify the Tororo site.

Timeline of the realization

Various difficulties were faced in developing the program, since there were no precedents of photovoltaic projects in Uganda. Most of the issues were that of a non-mature market, such as a lack of experience from government stakeholders and a lack of qualified local suppliers. Major milestones included securing the land; obtaining the Environmental and Generation Licenses;  signing the PPA and DA; finalizing the financing documents; and reaching financial close; followed by breaking ground on the construction of the project; and - last, but not least - the test to connect the site to the grid.

For the successful outcome of the development of the project, it proved vital to have a presence of local partners, duly guided from the company’s Cape Town offices. Key tools in this transaction were patience, perseverance and the will to understand a different and complicated environment.

3. Key Facts

4. Project impact

The project was commissioned on the 6th of October 2017 and started feeding power into the grid immediately. As mentioned in the key facts and figures, the project has been impactful in three ways.

First off, to realize the project, 306 local workers were employed, along with 6 local vendors. Secondly, in the operational phase, the employs 20 permanent workers. Last, but not least, the 10 MW power plant is serving close to 36,200 people in Uganda, brightening and empowering their lives. The socio-economic impact of the Tororo plant to the region cannot be overstated. In order to highlight these types of impact, we’re zooming in on a few personal stories.

People of Tororo Solar

Jessica Mukimba

Jessica, 28 years old, has been working at the Tororo solar project for 5 months. In this time she has worked as a storekeeper and site cleaner. The income she gets from working at the solar plant has enabled her to take care of her 7-year-old son, Awena Ian and even afford to pay his school fees. She has also bought a goat to add to her livestock and built a grass thatched house too. Jessica is very optimistic about the solar project in Tororo. She is confident it will spark prosperity in the region through all the jobs it is creating.

Geoffrey Othieno

Geoffrey, 56, is a flagman and traffic controller at the solar project. He directs both public traffic and vehicle traffic for the solar site to ensure safe road usage during construction operations. He has lived with his wife since 1975. Prior to getting employed at the solar project, Geoffrey’s last employment was as a warehouse porter in 1973. After the warehouse closed, he ventured into small-scale agriculture using clan land. His clan soon repossessed most the land and this made it tough for him to make ends meet at home. With a reliable source of funds, Geoffrey is now more capable of taking care of 5 of his own children who still stay at home as well as two of his deceased daughter’s children. He can also take care of basic household needs and school fees as the sole breadwinner of the family.

Kenneth Osike

Kenneth, 24, is a manual laborer at the Tororo solar project. His work ranges from digging to building and woodwork. He has a young family of his own. As he goes to work his wife Lydia looks after their two young daughters, Margaret and Mary, who are 2 years and 5 months old respectively. With so many obligations at a young age Kenneth, believes he is able to fulfill them through the stable income he earns. His stable income proved crucial during the recent famine that hit the Tororo region after the prolonged drought in 2016 as he managed to sustain his nuclear and his extended family. Kenneth has also expanded his sources of income; He has purchased a cow and planted rice and groundnuts.

Francis Owori

Francis is 38 years old and has been doing carpentry for the last 10 years. He makes household furniture and other custom furniture. His furniture shop’s roadside location is how the solar project management team noticed his work. He was sought after and requested to make tables and suggestion boxes for the project. Francis was glad to make the custom furniture and is hoping for more carpentry work from the solar project because he believes opportunities like these are the reason his furniture business is thriving.

5. Future outlook

Running time of the project

The Project Lifetime is linked to its PPA tenor. Building Energy has expressed its interest in extending the life of the project. If that will be the case, a revamping of some equipment will be necessary (i.e. inverters, PV modules). Otherwise, the Plant will be decommissioned.

Durability and practical experiences

So far, after one year of operations, the experiences have been very good. The only “issue” is the need to frequently clean the panels, due to the dusty nature of the area. The Tororo project can also proudly boast that in its development and operations, there have been no recorded accidents or incidents at all.

Possible expansion or replication

The Project was developed under the GetFit program. Should similar tenders be published in Uganda,  Building Energy stated it will surely submit another proposal. In any case, since the inception of the plant, the company has been engaging local authorities in efforts to expand its footprint in the country. Unfortunately, no tangible results came so far, but the company is determined to keep on trying.