Airports Company mulls solar power farms

Tawanda Gusha

The Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ) is finalising a plan to install solar power plants at major airports in the country as part of a broad strategy that is meant to reduce electricity costs.

ACZ has under its stewardship about 10 airports.

The busiest ones are the Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare, Victoria Falls International Airport and Joshua Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo.

ACZ has invested in expansion projects running into millions of United States dollars.

At the completion of these projects, Zimbabwe’s airports will have capacity to handle a combined 9,2 million passengers annually, from the current 5,5 million.

In an interview with StandardBusiness, ACZ chief executive officer Tawanda Gusha said the firm would soon go to tender for solar power projects.

“We will soon go to tender for airport solar farms,” Gusha said.

“We want to find partners, who will be investing in solar projects within airports.

“That way, we will be targeting to reduce our electricity bills.”

Apart from reducing the electricity bills, solar power facilities will help Zimbabwe’s airports ameliorate the crisis presented by rolling blackouts, which have gripped the country since last month, when the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) authorities said water levels at Lake Kariba were dropping at a faster pace.

The ZRA asked Zimbabwe to shut down its 1 050-megawatt power facility on the eastern end of Lake Kariba.

Several of Zimbabwe’s leading firms have already invested in solar power facilities to address power shortages, which have continued for decades with no solution in sight.

Gusha said most of the project would be implemented under the public private partnerships (PPPs).

“We intend to implement the projects through PPPs because we cannot be relying on loan funding all the time,” he said.

“It becomes unsustainable. We need to find other funding models that will ensure that the business is also sustainable.

“With PPP arrangements you are spreading the risk.

“This will look at development around airports like investing in hotels and shopping malls. We must fully utilise the land around airports.”

Gusha noted that ACZ was in the process of forming a destination management organisation in order to market Zimbabwe as a destination instead of having different entities pursuing different strategies and different initiatives.

He, however, bemoaned land ownership wrangles at airports saying it was holding the parastatal back.

“The issues that are holding us back, particularly at Robert Mugabe International Airport are issues of ownership of land around the airport,” Gusha said.

“So, we are negotiating with the government to request them to (get the) land so that we develop it and enhance commercial activity.

“We have made submissions through the Ministry of Transport. Hopefully, that issue is going to be completed soon.

“We will then call for PPP arrangements or requests for proposals for the development of that land into warehousing facilities, cold rooms and cold chain facilities.

“We want to approach the government and apply for an airport-free zone where we have free trade zone around the airport so that it becomes attractive to investors.”


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