Egypt Builds World’s Largest Solar Plant as Part of Energy Transformation

The world’s largest solar energy farm is expected to be completed next year in the Egyptian desert, a showcase project that is part of an multinational effort to overhaul Egypt’s dilapidated electricity system with renewable energy projects.

When it opens 400 miles south of Cairo in Egypt’s Western Desert, the $2.8-billion Benban complex is expected to generate 1.8-gigawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 1 million homes.  With international help, the Egyptian government has set an ambitious goal of producing 42 percent of its electricity using renewable sources by 2025.

Egypt currently generates more than 90 percent of its electricity from coal and natural gas, but the nation’s electricity generation remains spotty and its grid woefully outdated. The International Monetary Fund has been pushing reforms to the country’s energy system aimed at scaling back fossil fuel subsidies and attracting international solar, wind, and nuclear energy companies to lessen the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

Last week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi inaugurated several big electricity projects, including the expansion of massive wind farms on the Gulf of Suez and Red Sea. Russia has promised to help fund and build a $21-billion nuclear power plant on Egypt’s North Coast.

A joint Egyptian-international team will operate the Benban complex, which is expected to generate 4,000 jobs. “This is a big deal,” said Benjamin Attia, a U.S.-based solar energy analyst. “I can’t think of another example where so many big players have come together to fill the gap.”