By NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has received an unsolicited bid from a local engineering firm for a joint venture project to set up a solar farm to generate 50 megawatts of electricity to be fed into the national grid.
This was revealed in a recent council report of the general purposes committee which stated that Cottontree Engineering, trading as Williams Engineering wanted to partner council.
In its bid, the company promised that the project would not only address the energy deficit in Bulawayo, but also provide extra income for council.
Solar energy farms are large-scale commercial power plants that use photovoltaic solar panels to convert sunlight into clean energy, providing a source of safe, locally-produced renewable energy for many years after construction.
Large solar farms can be built in just a few months — compared to several years for coal plants.
“As a Bulawayo-based company, we have been operating since 1996.
“We have many years’ experience in electrical engineering and are currently involved with a number of upcoming solar stations in and around Zimbabwe,” the company said in its bid.
“Our engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) model has great benefits to our client, as we finance the project.
“The solar plant will cater for the power needs of the city, region and the excess pays for the loan, all of which is down to the power purchase agreement (PPA) to be agreed upon.”
Under the proposed deal, council will provide the land and conduct environmental and geological studies, while Williams Engineering will finance the project.
“Williams Engineering will provide finance capital up to the sum of US$75 000 and then recoup their investment through the selling of electricity to Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company.
“If both parties are satisfied with the above specifications, the profits and losses will be shared in the following manner, Williams Engineering 75% and BCC 25%,” the report further reads.
The construction of the project, with an expected lifespan of 20 years, is projected to take up to 24 months.
In 2019, the BCC proposed an ambitious plan to establish solar farms at the city’s cemeteries to generate electricity, but the project never took off.
The council’s decision was based on that the project would not disturb the peace in the cemetery.
It had copied the idea from Vaal Mall, a company based in Vereeniging in South Africa.