The world’s largest solar complex is scheduled to open next year in southeast Egypt. The Benban Solar Complex, also known as the Benban Solar Park, is a 14.4 square mile complex in the Aswan governorate that will harness the powerful solar energy of the Sahara Desert.
When completed, the complex is expected to house 30 to 41 individual plants, funded by private companies, and will provide electricity to 350,000 Egyptians, helping Egypt reach its goal of converting 20% of the country’s energy to renewable by 2022.
The park is being built as a result of a partnership between the Egyptian government and the private sector. The initiative has attracted a total of $1.8 billion of financing, including $210 million from 16 development banks. The partnerships and funding are enabling the Egyptian government to build the large infrastructure project while keeping its own costs minimal, as private companies will build and operate the individual solar plants in Benban.
“This is a big deal,” Benjamin Attia, a solar analyst at US-based energy research firm Wood Mackenzie, told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview. “I can’t think of another example where so many big players have come together to fill the gap.”
The scope of the ambitious park reflects the desire of the government to move away from fossil fuels and pave the way for an emerging renewable energy sector. In fact, the government cut subsidies for electricity created from fossil fuels by almost 47% on July 1, encouraging electricity created from renewable energy to be competitive for the first time in Egypt.
“I am sure solar energy will invade every part of Egypt in the coming few years with its cost gradually becoming lower than the cost of energy generated by traditional fuels,” Ahmed Hamdi, CEO of Africa Solar Energy, told the Arab Weekly. “Most of the electricity generated in Egypt will be generated by solar power.”
Egypt currently generates 94% of its electricity from fossil fuels, but by 2025 it plans to generate 42% by renewable energy. The Benban Solar Park is a critical part of Egypt’s strategy of achieving that goal.