JA Solar wins power supply contract in Zimbabwe

JA Solar secured a $179 million contract with China's MCC17 Group to supply PV modules for their Zimbabwe solar project.

JA Solar, a globally recognized manufacturer of solar products, will provide 100 megawatts of photovoltaic modules to a project of China's MCC17 Group, the company announced. 

This project is one of three announced in October 2015 by MCC17 Group, ZTE and Intratrek Zimbabwe. The three companies are set to construct ground-mounted solar projects with a combined production capacity of 300 MW. The three projects together are valued at $544 million.

MCC17 Group's deal with JA Solar is valued at $179 million. The project, based in Munyati, Midlands Province, Zimbabwe, and its sister projects will start construction in late 2016, and be operational by end of year 2017. With the announcement of this contract, JA Solar is now the exclusive provider for China's MCC17 Group.

China invests in Zimbabwe 
In the past few months many companies have started investing in renewable energy solutions in Africa to curb the continent's mounting electricity crisis. China has recently taken specific interest in Zimbabwe's energy problem. Companies like ZTE, a telecommunications equipment and systems company based in Shenzen, and CHINT Electric have partnered with Zimbabwe Power Company, according to Chinese news network Xinhua.

In Gwanda, Matabeleland South Province, ZPC signed with Intratrek Zimbabwe, an aeronautics manufacturer, and CHINT for a $202 million dollar project. ZTE signed for a $197 million dollar project in Insukamini, Matabeleland North Province.

As reported by Xinhua, Zimbabwe currently has two major power plants fueled by renewable energy, a hydroelectrical plant in Kariba and the steam-driven Hwange Thermal Power Station. Both stations built between 1977 and 1987 continuously experience malfunctions; the hydroelectric plant deals with low water levels due to droughts, and breakdowns occur regularly at the Hwange station.

Zimbabwe's power plants are insufficient 
The Hwange station was generating 545 MW as of June 2015, though it boasts a capacity of 920 MW. However, according to Xinhua, with the smaller thermal stations in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe only produces half its peak demand at 1,100 MW, which leaves local business without power unless they purchased generators. Residents are turning to solar paneling for their homes.

The Lake Kariba hydroelectric plant currently has a capacity of 750 MW, but will undergo a $355 million expansion thanks to Chinese company Sino Hydro. The capacity at the project's end will reach 1,050 MW.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Zimbabwe for one week December 2015, signaling to many of his countrymen that investing in Zimbabwe is a safe bet, according to Zimbabwean Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa, as reported by The Guardian. Xi and Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, spoke on Zimbabwe's economy that week with a partial focus on energy.

"Winning the contract to supply PV modules to the Zimbabwe project not only provides opportunities for JA Solar to establish stronger relationships in Zimbabwe but also helps lay a foundation for the company to develop relationships with other African countries," Executive President of JA Solar Xie Jian said. "JA Solar will continue its commitment to providing higher-quality solar products for markets across the globe, as we continue to pursue the highest quality in our products in order to best serve our customers." 

For more information on Zimbabwe power plants visit PennEnergy's research area.

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