Benban is Africa and Egypt’s first large-scale solar park.
The 1.8-gigawatt installation is the first utility-scale PV plant in Egypt.
With over 4,000 hours of sunshine a year and vast empty deserts, few countries have a better profile for solar energy than Egypt.
The 37-square-kilometre solar park is so large that it can be seen from space, with over seven million photovoltaic panels with a funding of $4 billion.
Brennan Solar Park, How it all Started
Egypt began laying the groundwork for the US $4 billion Benban project after enduring repeated blackouts, caused by severe fuel shortages, that reached their worst point in August 2014.
To create the park, Egypt’s government selected a remote desert site with high solar radiation and divided it into 41 plots of varying sizes.
It assigned those plots to roughly 30 developers that expressed interest in the project from 12 different countries. They include Spain’s Acciona, UAE-based Alcazar Energy, Italy’s Enerray, France’s Total Eren and EDF, China’s Chint Solar and Norway’s Scatec.
The developers, installed panels, transformers, and inverters on their respective plots.
The plots are arranged in four rows, each with a substation at the end. Electricity travels from the panels on each plot to the substations through 22-kV cables buried in the sand.
The government promised to pay a competitive price (through financial incentives called feed-in tariffs [PDF]) for all power produced at Benban for 25 years.
Funding for the Benban plants came from large international lenders, among them the International Finance Corporation, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, African Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Dutch Development Bank.
The state-owned Egyptian Electricity Holding Company built roads and other infrastructure at the site, including four substations, a control center, and a connection to an adjacent corridor of 220-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines.
The Benban solar region of Aswan houses 40 solar power plants — the largest number of power plants in a single area in the world.
Egypt’s government has set a goal for 20 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2022, and 42 percent by 2035.
The plant now provides nearly 1.5 GW to Egypt’s national grid and has brought down the price of solar energy at a time when the government is phasing out electricity subsidies.