March 24, 2023

FG lays foundation for $172m solar cell production plant in Nasarawa


By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja

The Federal Government on Thursday performed the foundation laying ceremony for $172 million solar cell production plant in Nasarawa.

The project is expected to transform Nigeria’s power and energy sector and establishment of the first solar cell production plant in West Africa.

Recall that President Mohammadu Buhari, who is the Chairman of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, NASENI, had expressed dismay over the status of energy supply in Nigeria, a development which has prompted the use of science, technology, innovation, and engineering to advance local content interventions in power sector reforms in the country.

Performing the foundation laying ceremony at the factory cite in Gora, Nasarawa state, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the measure was a proactive effort aimed at placing Nigeria within the ranks of countries pushing the boundaries in the use of climate-smart alternative energy sources, particularly solar power.

Prof Osinbajo said the development is one of the Federal government’s steps to ensure that the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) gets the one per cent of the federation account annually as prescribed by its founding law.

He said, “This factory could not have come at a more crucial time”, adding that not only is the beneficiation model it has adopted innovative and consistent with the African Union’s energy transition plan in the face of global warming, its output, at full operational capacity, will further impact the solar energy value chain in Nigeria through the low production costs of solar panels.”

According to him, “This has heralded a new dispensation for NASENI, one that has given it the financial wherewithal to execute its mandate of delivering technological and innovative interventions across critical sectors of the economy, including Agriculture, Health, Defence and Security, Power and Energy, Financial Services, Solid Minerals, Additive Manufacturing, Smart Fabrications, Factories, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and Virtual Manufacturing.

“For over ten years, NASENI has been consistent in championing solar power as an alternative to hydro and fossil power sourcing. And it was to this end that the agency established NASENI Solar Energy Limited (NSEL) in Karshi, Federal Capital territory, with a mandate to deliver alternative solar energy to homes and businesses in Nigeria.

“The development and maturity of the Naseni Solar Energy Ltd whose operations have been driven with the vim and zest of a tech start-up, forecasted an increase in local content of the solar energy production system in Nigeria, leading to ever-increasing production of solar cells.”

He said solar cells are critical to the entire solar energy value chain, because they determine the sensitivity of solar panels to trap and accumulate solar energy from the sun.

The Vice President further said NASENI’s solar cell production factory in Nigeria will be a game-changer, explaining that in Sub-Saharan Africa, $50 billion worth of diesel fuel is used each year, with diesel generators producing more energy than the entire energy grid in 17 countries in the region.

He said, “The resultant emissions of carbon monoxide has since become a major and worrying source of pollution.

“In Nigeria, for example, generator emissions are equivalent to emissions from all of the country’s 11 million cars put together. This is clearly unsustainable and calls for a significant shift.”

Prof. Osinbajo said the country’s Energy Transition Plan, the first in Africa, which was approved by the Federal Executive Council last year sets out the pathway to decarbonisation by 2060 and achieving universal energy access by 2030. The Nigeria Energy Transition Plan projects an increase in the use of solar power in the Nigerian energy mix, surpassing even gas by 2035.

“In due course, this will in turn attract new investment, local and foreign, for the establishment of solar panel manufacturing plants across Nigeria.

He lauded the decision to site the factory in Gora, Nasarawa State, adding that it leverages translational research into the biogeography, geological surveys, and mining cadastral reconnaissance that has positioned Nasarawa as the home of solid minerals in Nigeria.

He said the major raw material requirements for the production of Solar cells – silicon and silica – are naturally occuring in abundance in this area. We are grateful to the good people of Nasarawa for hosting this important project and congratulate you in advance for the positive boost it is certain to bring to the local economy.

Earlier, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NASENI, Professor Mohammed Haruna, traced the story of the agency’s venturing into alternative power solution, especially solar power, to the establishment of its solar panels production plant in Karshi, Abuja, ten years ago.

Prof. Haruna said the Solar Cells Production Plant in Gora, which is one of the three projects contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NASENI and the China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), will cost a sum of $171,970,000, which will be funded by Nigeria and China in15% and 85% respectively.

“It will cost a total of $171,970,000USD with 85% funding equivalent of $146,174,500USD support from China Africa Development (CAD) fund through the Bank of China and 15% local counterpart funding, equivalent of $25,795,500USD from Nigeria.

“The other two projects are Electric Power Transformer Production Plant at $123,990,000USD and High Voltage Testing Laboratory at $29,900,690USD. The total cost approved for the three projects is $325,860,690 and a total of $276,981,586.5 representing 85% is from China.

“The 15% counterpart for the three projects is $48,879,103.5 and NASENI has installmentally remitted up to 46.89% or $22,921,505.40 of the 15 percent ($48,879,103.5). Excess capacity of polysilicon and future expansion of wafers and solar cells production will lead to exportation for foreign exchange earnings.”

According to him, NASENI decided to venture into the area of power solution as a result of the unsatisfactory state of electricity power supply in the country.

“The cost of solar energy is still beyond the affordability of an average Nigerian hence the necessity of the project,” he said.

The representative of CGWIC, Mr Hu Shinkai, said the project would make solar energy available and affordable in Nigeria.