Mulk Oasis Gulf Investment (OGI), a subsidiary of Sharjah-based Mulk Holdings, has secured the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract for an $18 million ‘Solar Park’ in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in what will become one of West Africa’s largest solar projects.

Freetown’s Solar Park, which will have a capacity of six megawatts, was selected from over 80 project applications in various countries for the first funding cycle from the International Renewable Energy Agency and Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (IRENA-ADFD) joint facility.

Commenting on the success, Mulk founder and chairman Nawab Shaji Ul Mulk, noted: “This venture is a big step towards helping us strengthen our base further in the African market and a great opportunity to implement our patented solar technology in the PV space.”

A separate partnership has also been set up that will see the photo-voltaic solar panels for the project manufactured by Masdar PV, a solar subsidiary of the Masdar corporation, and by extension a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi government’s Mubadala Development Company.

ADFD selected the projects under the first of seven cycles of renewable funding from a shortlist recommended by IRENA, which evaluated the overall socio-economic merits of the projects, but in particular, their potential to be “transformative, replicable and innovative.”

Sierra Leone’s solar project is expected to produce sufficient power for approximately 3,000 households and marks the first serious step towards Sierra Leone’s target to produce 25% of its domestic power consumption through the use of renewable sources by the year 2015.

“We have been behind this clean energy project from the start, and I’m glad that our efforts have been successful,” stated HE Bahige Annan, trade commissioner of Sierra Leone to the UAE and GCC. “With the joint support of our Ministry of Energy and under the management of the Advanced Science and Innovation Company, we look forward to this landmark project.”

Though Sierra Leone non-industrial power consumption is estimated to be around 500MW at present, plans recently laid out by President Ernest Bai Koroma anticipate a strong drive by the government to harness the true energy potential of the country’s abundant sunshine.

The other projects being funded by the joint IRENA-ADFD fund also include facilities in Ecuador, the Maldives, Mali, Mauritania and Samoa, that along with the Solar Park in Sierra Leone will produce a total of 35MW of electricity and four million litres of bio-diesel per year, benefiting over 300,000 people and businesses a year.

Of a total of $80m being facilitated for the six projects, the ADFD will provide $41m in loans, while “the remainder will come from other sources such as national contributions, banks, development partners or financial institutions,” according to a spokesperson for IRENA.

Sierra Leone’s success is also the second in as many months after the World Bank announced a $40m package for the rehabilitation of the country’s electricity sector.

Nevertheless, reflecting the significant work to be done, Yusupha Babatunde Crookes, the World Bank’s country director for Sierra Leone, explained “electricity reaches less than 10% of the population in Sierra Leone and its cost is one of the highest in the sub region.”