June 8, 2007 / 1:00 PM / 12 years ago

Rwanda installs "Africa's biggest" solar plant

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda has unveiled a solar energy plant it says is Africa’s biggest, designed to boost the tiny central African country’s power capacity by 250 kilowatts, the government said on Friday.

The plant was formally opened on Thursday and will increase Rwanda’s electricity generating capacity to 50 megawatts.

“This new installation does not only increase the generation capacity but is also one of the cleanest energy sources,” Energy State Minister Albert Butare told Reuters.

“It is the biggest such project in Africa. There is no comparison on record.”

Rwanda needs to generate about 100 megawatts to meet soaring demand that has triggered regular blackouts as the country’s hydroelectric plants struggle to cope.

Many businesses have been forced to turn to costly diesel generators. The government hopes to install similar solar plants in rural areas with little chance of being connected to a grid.

“It is reliable and very cheap to maintain,” Butare said.

Rwanda is also hoping to generate electricity using a vast deposit of methane gas under Lake Kivu, which it shares with neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

A pilot project to produce four megawatts is nearing completion and will pave way for a larger 35 megawatt plant.

Some experts say the lake’s gas reserves could eventually be harnessed to generate some 700 megawatts.

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