Leonard Ncube in VICTORIA FALLS
Government has approved an application by a local engineering company and granted land to the firm to set up a 125MW solar plant and water project worth more than $300 million.
The initiative meant to transform Victoria Falls into a greenbelt, is being spearheaded by SouthPole Consulting Private Limited (SC) and seeks to draw raw water from the mighty Zambezi River to supply industry as well as export to neighbouring countries.
The project has a capacity to create 3 000 direct and indirect jobs and could steer the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) development after Victoria Falls was granted the status.
SouthPole Consulting director, Engineer Tendai Tidings Musasa, applied for a change of land use for part of his Woodlands Estate.
Documents seen by Business Weekly show that the “smart” generating plant would be built on a 1 700ha piece of the 12 000ha estate, just outside the resort town.
“Reference is made to your letter submitted on the 11th of September 2017 concerning the above subject matter. The application for change of use is approved. Our offices will visit the farm for verification purposes. A lease will be produced in due course,” read in part a letter date stamped and signed by Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Douglas Mombeshora. Eng Musasa said the initial phase of the project will cost $300 million. Actual work will begin once the Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Authority (ZERA) grants an independent power producer licence.
“The Minister of Lands has granted land use permit to SouthPole Consulting as the company seeks to develop a 125MW Solar Plant in Victoria Falls. The project development will commence as soon as Zera issues an Independent Power Producer (IPP) license. SouthPole Consulting PL and investors are currently mobilizing to be on the ground before end of 2017,” he said.
Eng Musasa said they have already applied to Zera, adding that funding and technical support for the project has been secured, with consultants expected to tour the site soon.
The project will have a Hydrokinetic Free – Flow of River (HFFR) system with capacity to pump over 50 000m3 of water per hour from the Zambezi River.
There will also be a data centre infrastructure between Namibia and Zimbabwe to boost Information Communication Technologies (ICT) competency and promote ease of doing business in Zimbabwe.
“This aspect of the project holds the promise of turning the Victoria Falls SEZ into a greenbelt with small scale farmers engaging in Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) and horticulture to support the booming tourism industry that has just been boosted by the new Victoria Falls International Airport infrastructure,” he said.
Once in place, the solar cluster project is also expected to feed into solar power development in Victoria Falls, where the regional ZIZABONA (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia) interconnector will be set up by the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
“The project will support power availability and guarantee further development as well as generate 500 jobs in its construction phase and 2 500 indirect jobs within the Victoria Falls SEZ,” said Eng Musasa.
He noted that the project was an alternative to the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP) as it will at a later stage integrate it and cut its estimated $2 billion cost by 50 percent.
According to the Namibian-based Eng Musasa, the project would interconnect to the whole of Sadc region, with the intention of alleviating power deficits in the country and region at large through growth of renewable clean energies.
Eng Musasa said the project would also invest in community development especially in tourism, conservation and anti-poaching, especially after being “nominated as one of the key national pipeline projects for UN Green Climate Fund (GCF) by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate”.
Dubbed the Victoria Falls Gorges Green Power Project (VFGGPP), the patented design will ride on the existing railway servitude on the Victoria Falls-Bulawayo-Plumtree and Bulawayo-West Nicholson-Beitbridge rail routes as well as Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) infrastructure.