The Benban Solar Park in Egypt is a massive new solar installation that is said to be aiming for somewhere between 1.6 to 2.0 gigawatts in generated electricity by mid-2019. It's a conglomeration of almost 30 separate projects that are being constructed right now even with no incentives whatsoever.
That said, there will be a 25-year contract in place to sell any and all electricity that the solar park generates at only 7.8 cents per kilowatt hour to none other than Egypt's own Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC).
The land on which the Benban Solar Park is being built is known to have some of the best solar power resources on the entire planet – sunlight. Initially, this land was laid out with a total of 41 unique and separate plots that ranged from 0.12 square miles to 0.39 square miles each. The total land area of the whole park is said to be approximately 14.4 square miles.
So far, the ongoing construction of the solar park has attracted the attention of many investors from the photovoltaic (PV) sector. Although there haven't been any private investors signed on yet, outside funding has been plentiful for the overall project. Benban's backers include the African Development Bank, the Arab Bank of Bahrain, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the CDC Group, the Europe Arab Bank, and the International Finance Corporation.
According to Benjamin Attia, a global solar markets analyst from GTM Research, the international funding effort is what's helping to push the average overnight system costs of the project to well below $900 per kilowatt. "So far, there are 25 project developers and sponsors from all over the world in negotiations and planning to build at Benban," he said. "The average project size is only 58 megawatts, as the procurement structure of the park allows many of the region's established developers to be involved without oversized risk."
The Benban Solar Park benefits from a centralization of the electricity grid infrastructure, which enables all project developers to share costs of expensive hardware which will end up lowering the cost of electricity in the area. In a detailed 220-page analysis released before construction on any of the projects began, all of the major considerations made to see its feasibility are broken down. The analysis shows that the project is indeed feasible and that it can pull through based on a number of complex financial models that are made possible with partial backing from the Egyptian government.
Right now, private investors have managed to steer clear of the Benban solar project, but they are expected to keep a close eye on it. According to Attia, "Egypt, and its more than 2-gigawatt utility-scale project pipeline, is one of the Middle East and Africa's largest and most promising markets." If projects on a much smaller scale like the experiment conducted by researchers in North Carolina can bear such impressive fruit, then a project of the Benban Solar Park's size should be even more fruitful.
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