Cambodia’s first large-scale solar power project is still in the trial testing stage, but is expected to be fully operational at the end of this month.
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The project is located near Bavet, a special economic zone in the Svay Rieng province, and is being implemented through a public-private partnership.
Victor Jona, the director-general of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said the solar project was being tested from August 15 to 31 and will be the first solar project to be linked to the nation’s power grid.
“During the testing date, they are testing to find out the problems during the operation and I went there [to the Bavet solar farm] and observed that they prepared well for the trial operation,” he said.
“If there are no problems with the operation, the operation officially starts from the 31st of this month,” he added.
“The government via MME and Electricite DU Cambodge (EDC) supports green energy development like the Bavet Solar Farm,” Mr Jona said. “After the project is fully successful, the government will open the floor for investors in such projects.”
There are about 14,000 villages in Cambodia and now EDC had made electricity available to about 11,000 of them, while the government plans to expand the electricity grid to be accessible throughout the country by 2020, according to Mr Jona.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) financially backed Singapore’s Sunseap Group’s project to build the solar power project under a long-term agreement with the state-run energy utility EDC.
The ADB’s private sector operations department provided Sunseap Asset (Cambodia) with a debt financing package of $9.2 million.
The package includes co-financing from a private sector financial institution and a concessional loan from the Canadian Climate Fund for the Private Sector in Asia. As part of the project, Sunseap entered into a 20-year solar power purchase agreement with the EDC.
“The solar farm is expected to begin operations in August. Once completed, it will have an installed capacity of 10 megawatts and be able to meet roughly a quarter of Bavet city’s local energy demand, half of which is now being met through power imports from Vietnam,” said an ADB report released in April.
“The project will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. In addition to providing a more reliable power supply in rural areas, the project is expected to generate a range of new skilled and unskilled jobs for the local community,” it added.
Frank Phuan, the founder and director of Sunseap Group, said: “Cambodia is a fast-growing market with vast potential for solar development.
“Through this partnership, people in rural Cambodia will gain access to a precious commodity that many in the urban developed world take for granted,” he said.