Africa’s Largest Microgrid Takes Shape In Equatorial Guinea

A 5MW solar microgrid is under development in Annobon Province off the coast of Equatorial Guinea.
Published: Tue 16 Dec 2014

Annobon Province, a tiny island just 6.4km long by 3.2km wide off Equatorial Guinea in West Central Africa, is set to house what will be Africa’s largest self-sufficient solar microgrid.

Solar microgrid

The project was approved by the government of Equatorial Guinea in August 2013 and will comprise 5MW of solar modules, 3MW battery energy storage and an energy management system.

When completed the island-wide microgrid is intended to provide reliable, predictable power supplying 100% of the island’s current demand. Currently the approximately 5,000 population relies on generators for their electricity supply for periods up to five hours per day and spend an average of 15% to 20% of their income on supplemental power.

The project forms part of Equatorial Guinea’s National Economic Development Plan Horizon 2020, which aims to strengthen the country’s economy and accelerate its development into an ‘emerging economy’ by 2020.

The project was proposed by Pennsylvania-based MAECI Solar, a division of Management and Economic Consulting. MAECI Solar is also providing the solar modules and system integration.

It was developed in collaboration with Delaware-based Wise Power Systems. Other participants include GE Power & Water, which is providing the NaNiCl battery storage; Princeton Power Systems, which is providing its BIGI-250 energy management platform; and Eaton, which is providing electrical engineering services and power distribution equipment, including switchgear assemblies, circuit protection devices and power transformers.

“MAECI is fortunate to have witnessed firsthand the development of Equatorial Guinea over the past few years,” says Chris Massaro, senior vice president. “The Annobon Electrification Project will be the platform for economic growth on the island by bringing a much needed power supply that will enable the development of multiple industries, add 700 to 1,000 direct and indirect jobs to Annobon Island and significantly raise the standard of living.”

Annobon Province is located about 350km off the coast of Gabon and 180km southwest of São Tomé Island. The volcanic island is characterized by a succession of lush valleys and steep mountains, covered with rich woods and luxuriant vegetation. The main industries are fishing and timber. 

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Equatorial Guinea energy sector

The Annobon microgrid is expected to serve as a model for electrification elsewhere in Equatorial Guinea. According to the IEA’s African Energy Outlook 2014 database the country’s electrification rate in 2012 was 48% in the rural areas. [Engerati-Mini-grids To Power Africa’s Rural Electrification]

Equatorial Guinea relies mainly on thermal power for its energy needs. The country has considerable hydropower potential, which has started to be developed with the 120MW Djibloho scheme. There is also potential for wind and biomass energy. However, primarily due to the dense biomass coverage, the solar irradiation is generally unsuitable for large-scale power generation.