Company That Built Rwandan Solar Field A Nobel Prize Nominee
Gigawatt Global, a Netherlands-based, U.S.-owned company that built a giant Rwandan solar field and helped fund an adjacent youth village for orphans, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize.
Orphans living at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda are among the beneficiaries and employees of East Africa’s first utility-scale, grid-connected, commercial solar field, according to IntoConnection.
Gigawatt Global built the 8.5-megawatt Rwandan solar field and launched it in February at a cost of $23.7 million.
This solar field will increase the Rwanda’s ability to generate power by 6 percent. That’s huge, because just 15 percent of Rwanda’s population has access to electricity, according to IntoConnection.
Located on 20-hectares (49 acres), the field has 28,360 photovoltaic panels and is the largest solar field in Africa except for South Africa and Mauritius, according to TheJerusalemPost.
The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is a residential community that is home youth orphaned during or after the Rwandan genocide. The village was established in December 2008 by Jewish South African-American philanthropist and attorney Anne Heyman. It is designed to care for, protect and nurture the orphans, according to IntoConnection. The ultimate goal is to help young people who have lived through trauma to become healthy and self-sufficient.
The fees paid by Gigawatt Global to lease the solar field’s land contribute to the village’s expenses. Students at the youth village will have access to education in engineering and solar PV technology.
Global Gigawatt describes itself as a multinational renewable energy company focused on utility-scale solar fields in emerging markets. It also has projects in development in South Africa and Nigeria and projects in negotiation in Tanzania, according to its website.
In Rwanda, just 1-to-2 percent of the population in rural areas has electricity, and that’s where 90 percent of the population lives, according to Gigawatt Global. The country relies heavily on diesel, which is polluting and expensive.
Gigawatt Global says it is evaluating other emerging markets for expansion.
The company has relationships with the World Bank, IFC (International Finance Corp.) and OPIC ( Overseas Private Investment Corp.)
The company was nominated for the Nobel Prize based on its “new model of impact investing for humanitarian and environmental change,” according to TheJerusalemPost. “Gigawatt Global – the first to develop a utility-scale solar field in East Africa – uses a hybrid model to address two critical issues facing Rwanda and indeed much of Africa today: a growing number of orphans and marginalized children, as well as a lack of a sustainable energy model for the continent.”