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FACT CHECK: Is BUK off-grid hybrid solar power plant the largest in Africa?

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THE Federal Government on Tuesday, September 3 commissioned what it claimed to be the largest off-grid hybrid solar power plant at the Bayero University, Kano. The plant was commissioned by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.

The claim

“The Federal Government, under the Rural Electricity Agency, will commission the largest off-grid solar hybrid power plant in Africa at Bayero University, Kano (BUK) under the Energizing Education Programme (EEP) today. The project will provide 55,815 students and 3,077 staff with constant electricity supply from the university’s 7.1MW solar hybrid power plant.”

The Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Damilola Ogunbiyi, stated that “This is the largest off-grid solar hybrid power plant in Africa; We, as Nigerians, should be very proud of, thanks to the commitment of the Federal Government towards sustainable energy and education.

The Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, in a tweet on Tuesday also shared from his handle that he would accompany the Vice President to commission the largest off-grid solar hybrid power plant. The post has been retweeted about 189 times and liked by 442 people as at the time of filing this report.

The same claim was shared on the official Twitter handle of the Federal Government of Nigeria, @NigeriaGov.

The tweet reads: “The @NigeriaGov (federal government), under the @realREANigeria (REA) will commission the largest off-grid solar hybrid power plant in Africa at Bayero University, Kano (BUK) under the Energizing Education Programme (EEP) today.”

What is a hybrid solar power plant?

A hybrid power plant is one that generates power by using two or more sources of energy. It also refers to a combination of solar and energy storage. The plant combines solar power from a  power system designed to supply usable solar power by means of converting light into electricity.

Verification

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To verify this claim, The ICIR did a search of the largest off-grid solar hybrid power plant in Africa on the internet and also visited websites of contractors who have constructed solar hybrid power plants. The findings revealed that the commissioned power plant at the Bayero University, Kano is not the largest on the continent.

The largest hybrid solar power plant is in Burkina Faso. In March 2018, Wartsila, a power engineering firm completed the world’s largest solar hybrid power plant.

The power plant has a capacity of 15MWp (megawatt peak), doubling that of the BUK plant, and was awarded by the global renewable energy independent power producer, Total Eren, and African Energy Management Platform (AEMP).

As part of the verification process for the claim, Etore Thomas, the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Power, could not respond to calls and messages sent when The ICIR contacted her even as she read the message sent to her via WhatsApp.

The ICIR contacted Ayang Ogbe, Director of Promotion (Information and Outreach) at the Rural Electrification Agency ( REA). Ogbe referred The ICIR to the website of the REA where numbers of who to talk to can be gotten. However, calls placed to the numbers could not be reached.

We also contacted Wartsila, the engineering firm responsible for the construction of the largest solar hybrid power plant. Wartsila confirmed that the project in Burkina Faso is currently the largest solar hybrid power plant.

“I confirm that the project delivered by Wärtsilä in Essakane, Burkina Faso is to date the world’s largest solar hybrid project and therefore larger than the one delivered in Nigeria,” wrote Fabien Cadaut, Area Marketing Manager of Wärtsilä’s Africa Energy Business.

Wartsila’s response

Conclusion

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It is certain that Nigeria is not home to the largest off-grid solar hybrid power plant in Africa. Rather, Burkina Faso, another country in west Africa is.

The claim that the BUK off-grid solar hybrid power plant is the largest in Africa is, therefore, INCORRECT.

Head of Data Unit, International Centre For Investigative Reporting, ICIR.
Shoot me a mail at [email protected]

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