Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
A 2,5MW solar power plant expected to be the single largest rural electrification project in the country is set to be constructed in Manama, Gwanda in Matabeleland South, at a cost of US$4,5 million.
The solar power plant, which will provide electricity to critical entities such as Manama Mission Hospital and schools, dovetails with National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), a five-year medium term plan aimed at realising the country’s Vision 2030.
The feasibility study for the project has already been done by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The project is being funded by the AfDB, GIZ of Germany and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in partnership with Government.
In addition to Manama Mission Hospital, the solar power plant is expected to power Manama High School, four primary schools, Manama rural business service centre and surrounding communities.
Manama Mission Hospital is currently affected by incessant electricity challenges which affect critical services and the solar power plant is expected to boost operations at the hospital.
Following a feasibility study by the AfDB, the solar power plant is expected to provide a constant supply of electricity in the area.
Speaking after a tour of Manama Mission Hospital yesterday, Minister of State in the Office of Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, Retired Major-General Sibangumuzi Khumalo said the project will improve the availability of electricity to the hospital, business community and villagers.
“This project for now is being spearheaded by Geobase, a company that seeks to promote the provision of solar electricity through building a grid where the power will be generated and provisioned to the hospital and surrounding communities.
Geobase is proposing a 2.5MW station that will provide power,” said the minister.
“We’re aware that the country’s power utility has been facing various challenges which affect the supply of electricity so the proposal to build a solar power plant at the hospital will bridge the gap so that there is constant supply of electricity because when a hospital runs out of power, it means the hospital would’ve been closed at that particular time and lives may be lost.
Once lives are lost, they can’t be resuscitated.”
Minister Khumalo noted that the feasibility study of the project had already been done by the AfDB and the plant will be up and running soon to assist the hospital to fully provide the required medical services.
“According to the designers, the plant can be duplicated and set up at other rural hospitals across the country.
Some rural areas don’t have much electricity provisioning so this project will bridge the gap and improve services for our people,” said Minister Khumalo.
The Manama power project is configured to have its own transmission and distribution system. Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Abednico Ncube said the project comes at an opportune time as the province moves towards utilisation of clean renewable energy to augment the traditional hydro-electricity energy.
“Most of our institutions such as hospitals, schools, colleges and irrigation schemes will be able to perform better with the use of solar energy systems as an alternative power source.
The province is currently facing electricity challenges due to theft and vandalism of Zesa infrastructure. Manama Hospital, which is Gwanda South’s major referral hospital, has faced serious power shortages over the years which has crippled its services,” said Minister Ncube.
He said the province has a good solar radiation system which makes it ideal to set up the solar project at Manama.
“I’m informed that the planning and feasibility studies were successfully completed two years ago. We’re grateful to our funders and President Mnangagwa for setting a national vision for a better life for all Zimbabweans through Vision 2030.
No one will be left behind. The recipients of this project should take pride in its implementation and guard it jealously as it is the only solution to our perennial electricity challenges,” said Minister Ncube.
The consultant spearheading the project, Mr Gibson Nyathi of Enduring Sun Energy, which is working in partnership with Geobase, said the solar power plant will enable the restoration of Manama Mission Hospital to its original status and service several rural clinics within a radius of 60km.
“Re-equipping the hospital with modern medical diagnostic equipment befitting district referral hospital status will be enabled by the availability of a constant supply of electricity mindful that modern medical equipment is highly sensitive to power outages and thus requiring recalibration by skilled technicians after each outage.
This class of skills is scarce not only at Manama, but within Zimbabwe generally hence the need for guaranteed, uninterruptible electricity supply,” he said.
Mr Nyathi, who was born at Manama Mission Hospital and was one of the first Form One pupils at Manama High School, said the power model has been specifically engineered and configured to underwrite uninterruptible electricity supply to Manama Mission Hospital as a priority. – @Yolisswa.
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