The Bui Power Authority (BPA) has switched 22.25 megawatts (MW) of solar power onto the national grid.
Engineers at the BPA, after getting the green light from the power transmitter, the Ghana Grid Company Limited (GRIDCo), successfully turned on the switches at exactly 1.45 p.m. last Friday for its 127 inverters, which store power harvested from the sun through solar photovoltaic panels, to feed the national grid.
“So far, the only renewable power on the national grid is from hydro (water). This is the first time we are harnessing power from the sun and putting it onto the energy grid to be used everywhere,” the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the BPA) Mr Fred Oware, told the Daily Graphic.
The switch was done under GRIDCo’s guidance, which examined the facilities and gave the green light for the switching to be done.
The generator and the power transmitter would use the first phase to study the output and make adjustments before the rest of the 50MW would be added to the national grid, Mr Oware explained.
The BPA, with its generation assets in the middle belt, last month completed the construction of a 50MW solar system, Ghana’s largest solar farm and first phase of a 250MW project expected to be completed by the end of next year.
The solar project is being constructed in phases of 50MW.
Although the use of solar energy in the country picked up some time in the 2000s when the German government supported the Energy Commission to promote the household use of solar power installed on rooftops, this is the first time solar is entering the grid for national use, a feat which is also the first in West Africa and about the third in Africa.
The achievement by the BPA is also significant in many ways.
First, between February and July, water levels in the country’s hydroelectric reservoirs – Akosombo, Kpong and Bui – are generally low, but there is plenty of sunshine.
“When water levels go down in the midst of plenty sunshine, it makes a lot of sense to harvest the sun. So this very significant step will compensate for less energy from hydro sources and help stabilise the national grid,” Mr Oware pointed out.
Again, apart from the BPA, almost all the country’s non-hydro power generation assets are centred in the south, between the coast of Tema and Takoradi, and transmitting power over a long distance to the northern part of the country results in some system losses.
Mr Oware said the construction of solar systems to increase generation at the Bui enclave in the Banda District in the Bono Region was in the interest of the entire national grid, as it would have access to more power generated in the middle belt for distribution around and to the northern part of the country.
Aside from the 250MW project centred at Bui alone, which started in 2017 under a Bui Hydro-Solar Hybrid (HSH) scheme, the CEO of the BPA said there were plans to develop other solar plants in the northern part of the country, with six sites already identified.
They included Bawku, Yendi, Zebila and Tumu, he said, adding that plans were far advanced to start the Yendi project.
The BPA, which set out to implement the turnkey hydro dam project, the Bui Hydro Power, in May 2007, was given the mandate to develop solar energy as part of the generation mix.
The hydro-solar project is to augment the target to have 10 per cent renewable energy, which translates to about 5,000MW, in the national grid by 2030.
This will include new projects, besides the traditional hydro power sources the country already has.
Mr Oware was of the belief that the move by the BPA for solar energy from now onwards would contribute significantly to achieve the 10 per cent target.
The country’s first large-scale solar farm was the 2.5MW Navrongo Solar Power Plant in the Upper East Region.
There is also a 20MW solar farm by BMC near Winneba.
Additionally, there is the 17MW solar plant in the Nadowli Kaleo District in the Upper West Region.
It is made up of the 13MW Kaleo solar power plant and the 4MW Lawra solar plant.
Although the power will be evacuated by GRIDCo onto the national grid, it will be localised for parts of the Upper East Region.