Mini-grids Coming To Rural Tanzania

Four mini-grids serving approximately 10,000 customers are to be developed in central Tanzania.
Published: Mon 13 Oct 2014

The first of four mini-grids that will be delivered in the village of Malolo and surrounds in the Morogoro region of the southern highlands of Tanzania – about 170km west of the capital, Dar es Salaam – is now under way. Construction has commenced by Ruaha River Power Company Ltd, the Tanzanian affiliate of Continental Energy Corporation, and the first subscribers are being signed up from a waiting list of 400 customers.

Build, own and operate mini-grids

Ruaha Power will build, own, and operate the four Malolo mini-grids, which will have a combined generation capacity of 300kW. Each will deliver 75kW of power to a combined total of approximately 2,500 residential, commercial, and light industrial customers via prepayment meters.

Phase I of the Malolo mini-grid development is expected to commence power deliveries by the end of the first quarter of 2015. It involves the installation and commissioning of the first embedded generators, a 25kW hybrid biomass gasifier and a 25kW diesel generation plant, together with more than 4km of low voltage distribution network to deliver power to about 400 subscribers.

The distribution network will be constructed to standards sufficient for connection to the national grid at such time as it may be extended into the Malolo area. A 21,500 square-foot site near the village of Malolo has been acquired for the first generator house and power line easements have been arranged. Civil works and the construction of the first powerhouse and office has begun and are expected to be complete by year-end.

A phase II development is planned to add solar PV capacity to complete a hybrid biomass/solar PV/diesel powered mini-grid. After completion, Ruaha Power plans to duplicate the two-phase development at each of the other three nearby villages, one after the other.

Mini-grids in Tanzania

Ruaha Power was established in 2013 to develop mini-grids as an independent power producer in the rural and small urban areas of Tanzania. Continental acquired a majority interest in Ruaha Power in September.

Ruaha Power has identified several suitable locations and market opportunities for mini-grids, made possible by attractive commercial tariffs and incentives offered by Tanzania's Rural Electrification Agency, a streamlined permitting process offered by the energy regulator EWURA, and keen multi-lateral aid and investment interest. Tanzania is one of six African countries eligible for financial assistance under the five-year US Presidential Power Africa initiative. The country is also eligible under the Beyond the Grid initiative to support isolated mini-grids and other off-grid, small-scale energy solutions.

Ruaha Power’s first mini-grid is currently under development at Ulelingombe, also in the Morogoro region of Tanzania. The biomass-diesel hybrid system will be run as a 50/50 joint venture with Husk Power Systems, which has supplied the 32kW biomass plant.

A feasibility study is also under way on a 25MW potential run-of-river hydropower site on Tanzania's Lukosi River.

Mini-grids are expected to be the major contributor to rural electrification efforts, in the bid to achieve universal access by 2030. [Engerati-Minigrids - A High Impact Technology For Rural Electrification]