Gigawatt Global is a company with many “bottom lines.” Sure, it wants to make a profit, but the company also focuses on its environmental and community impact. Case in point: its utility-scale solar plant in Rwanda.

Gigawatt designed the 8.5-megawatt solar facility as part of the Power Africa initiative, which aims to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. The first of its kind in East Africa, the plant reduces Rwanda’s reliance on fossil fuels and supports some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

Even better, Gigawatt moved the project from planning to power generation in just one year. That pace surprised even Gigawatt Global’s co-founder and managing director, Chaim Motzen. “The speed with which this project was completed is a tribute to the strength of the Rwandan government’s institutions,” he said.

The power of reliable electricity

Gigawatt Global’s utility-scale solar plant supports orphan residents of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. (Gigawatt Global)

When Gigawatt Global connected the solar facility to Rwanda’s national grid in February 2015, it added enough clean power to supply 15,000 households, and without increasing carbon emissions.

For those 15,000 families, the new Gigawatt plant means new opportunities. With reliable access to electricity, they can spend less time and money collecting fuels. That means millions of hours saved for school — the company estimates more than 40,000 will find greater success in the classroom — work and other activities.

Ditching diesel

Already, says Motzen, the new plant has “played the major role” in reducing Rwanda’s dependence on expensive, polluting diesel fuel. That means fewer Rwandans will be at risk for respiratory diseases.

Part of the community

Gigawatt Global chose to construct its 28,000 solar panels on land leased from the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, whose 500 orphan residents include survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Gigawatt helped fund the village and launched an on-site solar energy training program for area students.

By adding clean energy to the grid, Gigawatt Global has brightened Rwandans’ futures. The company is a finalist for the 2015 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in the Environmental Sustainability category. Launched in 1999, the awards recognize American companies that are leaders in responsible business practices.