University of Botswana will soon construct one of the largest commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant ever to be undertaken in Botswana.
The 6MW solar plant project planned for construction in 2023 was launched by the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Dr Letsholathebe, at the University of Botswana on November 16, 2022. Once complete, the plant will meet a larger part of the University’s day-time electricity needs to reduce the over P3.6 million monthly bill. Further, the plant will create opportunities for the university to sell excess power to the national grid.
The project will be rolled out as a design, build, finance, operate and maintain model partnership with SEB-Consortium. The project will also offer university students and staff a unique opportunity to learn about renewable energy with real time data. Training and capacity development have already commenced with several UB students targeted to gain experience in the design and construction phase.
Launching the project, Dr Letsholathebe, expressed delight that the project would contribute Botswana’s agenda on the use of clean energy through renewable resources to meet the demand of a fast-growing economy.
Dr Letsholathebe said the project would bolster Botswana’s commitment towards carbon reduction and green energy solutions.
“By launching this PV Solar project, you are indeed sending a strong signal that not only is the drive to scale up renewables being undertaken globally but even in emerging economies as well,” said the minister.
Dr Letsholathebe further expressed the desire for Botswana to have solar panels fabricated at the University of Botswana. “From here, now you go to the lab. I want to come back in year to launch a solar panel fabricated in the University of Botswana,” said Dr Letsholathebe.
Nonetheless, he applauded the University of Botswana that through this solar project it was well on track and taking the lead in the use of green technology. In addition, he said UB should make sure that its curriculum was relevant to the modern times.
The minister was also happy that once in place, the solar plant would assist in generating funds which the university can use to meet its demands and thereby reducing heavy reliance on government subvention.
Dr Letsholathebe mentioned that energy transformation was reshaping the way electricity was produced, distributed and consumed around the world with growing solar energy generation at both large and small scale. He said a more decentralised and democratised energy system was emerging.
Speaking at the same event, Mr Robert Hanna, said on behalf of the SEB-Sturdee Consortium that the solar plant was a huge milestone in the development of a clean energy transition in Botswana.
That was more so that the launch coincided with world leaders’ gathering in Egypt to discuss climate change issues. The discussions focused on how to keep the globe on track regarding the Paris Agreement of 2015 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.
“The agreement was on action, and today we are witnessing action by the University of Botswana,” said Mr Hanna.
Earlier on when welcoming guests, University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, expressed delight that the new project would have various spin-offs for the university in that it was coming at a time when the institution was making efforts towards seeking third and fourth stream incomes.
Professor Norris added that through the partnership with Sturdee Consortium, UB was living up to its strategic objective as an engine of economic development by exploring new pathways and reinventing itself to make impactful contribution to society. Giving a vote of thanks, UB Council Chairperson, Mrs Tshisimogo Lekaukau, also applauded UB for taking action to find ways of reducing its electricity bill through third stream income generating activities.
Mrs Lakuakau said the envisaged solar project would also make the world realise that Botswana was not only interested in exploiting its abundant coal resources but also looking at alternative energy sources to lessen the impact of global warming. Further, she said the project would not only save the University of Botswana money which could be spent on other important areas but benefit the rest of the country as well.