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Obama's Power Africa Plan Selects U.S. Firms to Build 3 Solar Farms in Ethiopia

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Two U.S. companies have received contracts to join President Obama's plan to double power access in Africa by 2030.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Energy and directors at the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation awarded contracts to Global Trade and Development Consulting (GTDC) and Energy Ventures to construct and operate three solar farms in Ethiopia, according to PV Tech. The Maryland companies will work on three 100 megawatt (MW) solar farms that are already collectively known as the 300MW Solar Project.

Obama's plan, Power Africa, was announced in June. The president wants to add 10,000 MW of clean energy to Africa in the next 17 years. More than two-thirds of the sub-Saharan African population is without electricity.

Two U.S. companies were awarded contracts to bring three 100 megawatt solar farms to Ethiopia as part of President Obama's Power Africa plan.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

"This project represents a significant advance in our Ethiopian energy initiative and is now part of our comprehensive energy plan," Ethiopian water and energy minister Alemayehu Tegenu said. "Given Ethiopia’s large hydro-electric generation capacity and now wind and geothermal power generation coming on-line, large-scale solar fits nicely into our energy portfolio and will provide significant power generation capacity much faster than the other renewable technologies. We welcome this project with open arms.”

The construction of the three solar farms are expected to generate about 2,000 jobs, some of which could be permanent. The partners of Power Africa will initially focus on Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

The U.S. committed $7 billion to Power Africa, though Obama estimated that it would take $300 billion for the continent to reach its energy goal. The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) promised up to $5 billion in support of U.S. exports for the development of power projects across sub-Saharan Africa. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) will invest up to $1 billion in African power systems "to increase access and the reliability and sustainability of electricity supply through investments in energy infrastructure, policy and regulatory reforms and institutional capacity building," according to the White House.

The private sector committed about $9 billion in investments this summer. Large investors include Heirs Holdings ($2.5 billion, 2,000 MW) and Symbion Power ($1.8 billion, 1,500 MW).

"[Electricity is] the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs and it’s the connection needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy," Obama told Forbes earlier this year. "You’ve got to have power.

“My own nation will benefit enormously if [Africa can] reach full potential.”

 Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

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The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."