Loucoumane Coulibaly | ABIDJAN

Ivory Coast plans to build a 25-megawatt solar power plant in the north of the country as it seeks to bolster a strained power grid with renewables, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

The 23.6 billion CFA franc ($40 million) plant will be built by Korhogo Solaire, a subsidiary of Morocco’s Nova Power, and is expected to be operational by 2018, Bruno Kone told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

It could be one of the first solar power plants in Ivory Coast which until now has depended mostly on gas- and oil-fired thermal plants to produce power and has only a small number of planned solar projects.

“The realization of this…plant will improve the balance of the energy mix, which requires an increasingly strong integration of renewable energy,” Kone said.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is one of Africa’s rising economic stars, but rapid growth has strained the power sector in the West African country, which also exports electricity to Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana, Mali, Togo, and parts of Liberia.

Demand for electricity is increasing by about 10 percent annually and the government hopes to attract enough investment to double output to 4,000 megawatts by 2020.

($1 = 587.7600 CFA francs)

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly, editing by Edward McAllister and Elaine Hardcastle)