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Benin Starts Rural Solar Project

FILE: Photovoltaic cells in the solar panels, such as these in a village in Benin, convert sunlight into electricity. Taken August 20, 2012.

NEoT Offgrid Africa, an energy investment platform, founded by France's EDF and Paris-based asset manager Meridiam, on Monday said they were working with two other companies to develop a 1.7 megawatt (MW) solar power project in Benin.

The energy concerns say they intend to provide electricity in 12 rural localities, including 3 MWh of battery capacity that will supply more than 5,000 homes and businesses with electricity, and that should be completed within a year.

GDS International, a subsidiary of French energy group Générale du Solaire, and West Africa energy transition firm ARESS are also involved in the Benin project.

The idea is it should be a pilot for regulated off-grid electrificiation in Benin, part of a region that historically has failed to capture its huge renewable resources because of inadequate investment.

The project represents an investment of 8.5 million euros ($8.79 million), co-financed by NEoT Offgrid Africa, as a financial partner, and funds from the U.S. government's main development fund, Millennium Challenge Corporation, the companies' statement said.

Figures from the International Energy Agency found that although home to 60% of the best solar resources globally, Africa has only 1% of installed solar capacity.