By Sara Toth Stubb
Special to DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Gigawatt Global Cooperatief, an American-Dutch solar power company, said Monday it has finalized financing needed to build Rwanda's first commercial solar power plant.
Netherlands-based Gigawatt, which has significant U.S. ownership, said it has finalized $23.7 million in funding for an 8.5 megawatt field near Kigali, which will be connected to the national grid and supply about 8% of the country's electricity.
The Rwandan government has agreed to purchase the solar-generated power for 25 years.
About $400,000 of the money is from a grant from the U.S. government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation's Power Africa program. It is the first grant made under the Power Africa program, which President Barack Obama started last year with the pledge to spend $7 billion to help increase electricity access in Africa, Gigawatt executives said.
Other financing comes from the Norwegian development finance institution Norfund and the Dutch development bank FMO.
The project, already under construction and expected to be operational in the summer, will be the first utility-scale solar field in all of East Africa. The project will help the Rwandan government, which mainly relies on hydro- and diesel-fueled electricity, cut its energy costs, reduce pollution and reduce the number of blackouts, Gigawatt said at a news conference in Jerusalem, where its research and development arm, Energiya Global, is based.
"This field represents hope for humanity and the environment," Gigawatt president Yosef Abramowitz said.
The Rwandan energy and water minister, Emma Francoise Isumbingabo said in a statement that the solar field will help close the country's energy gap and reduce its frequent blackouts.
Gigawatt, which has preliminarily secured about $800 million in financing for all its future projects, says it has several other projects in its pipeline, mostly in developing countries.
Gigawatt was founded in 2011 by founders of the Arava Power Co., which operates five solar fields in Israel.
Write to Sara Toth Stub at firstname.lastname@example.org