Energy crisis can be averted, says NEC

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Windhoek

The Namibian Engineering Corporation (NEC) believes the “energy crisis” Namibia is heading towards could be avoided if the right projects are supported and incentives are provided to the private sector.

It is widely believed that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, including Namibia, is heading for an electricity shortage from 2016, when power purchasing agreements with South Africa’s Eskom ends. Eskom is struggling to meet its own home demand and is unlikely to renew power-purchasing agreements with its neighbours.

“NamPower should enter into 25-year power-purchasing agreements with multiple private plant operators. These plants should be one to 10 MW each, owned by Namibians and which would produce clean, cost effective and local power,” said Joring von Gossler, Head of Renewable Energy at NEC Power & Pumps.

Von Gossler made the remarks while commenting on the 1 000 kWp Solar PV grid-tied system NEC has installed at Maerua Mall. The installation at the mall reduces day time consumption by up to 30 percent, while reducing monthly overheads as well as keeping future electricity cost increases to a minimum. NEC believes the installation at Maerua is another example of how the private sector could support the national grid by reducing daytime, especially peak time, consumption.

Von Gossler said that the multiple private plants could be solar photovoltaic (PV), solar thermal, wind parks or bush-to-gas power plants, all powered by renewable energy sources found in the country.

He believes this is a viable option as fossil fuels become more expensive and harder to come by.
“Renewable power plants on the other hand have a constant electricity production price and will become cheaper than fossil fuel power stations in just a few years, and already are, if some fuel types are compared. To ‘store’ the energy from the renewable power stations across the country, NamPower could spend a fraction of the money planned for Kudu gas to rebuild the sluice gates at the Calueque Dam in the Kunene River in Angola. This would provide the optimal solution to have constant and permanent power from Ruacana, clean and renewable, right through the year,” added Von Gossler.

Furthermore, he is of the opinion that power production by hydropower stations can be effectively and quickly controlled. “The dam for the turbines could act as a ‘national battery’ to the renewable power suppliers of the country. As the sun rises and more of a percentage of the national grid is powered by solar (thermal or PV) the turbines at Ruacana could be throttled back. As clouds cover some of the solar farms or night falls, Ruacana and bush-gas-to-electricity plants could react and produce more power. This would ensure a 100 percent renewable and very affordable national smart grid for Namibia,” he said.

Regarding future electricity demand for Namibia and SADC, NEC believes that a 200MW gas power plant could rather be built at Walvis Bay, where the power infrastructure is already in place and a trained labour force is close by for installation and maintenance.

“The gas could be Namibian sourced, natural Kudu gas, brought in by ship from the rigs in the Atlantic Ocean rather than spending money on Saudi-Arabian or Angolan oil, for an expensive and dirty diesel power plant. This smaller gas turbine together with decentralised bush-to-gas and the revamped Van Eck Power Station could supply base-load to the country, supporting the Ruacana turbines, so that the water supply in the Calueque Dam would last the entire year,” Von Gossler said.

NEC is adamant that for the daytime bulk power requirements, solar PV has many advantages in the Namibian context, such as small to medium (one to 10MWp) systems that could be installed by Namibian companies with a local labour force in decentralized locations across the country, as well as local solar companies that could install a minimum of 4MW per month, therefore in a very short space of time provide sufficient power to the grid to make Namibia a net exporter of power during the day. NEC noted that Namibia has among the world’s best solar climates for PV and solar thermal plants.

Von Gossler pointed out that local companies are willing and able to convert their rooftops to “small power plants”, thereby reducing the burden on the national grid by reducing their own daytime consumption, while local labour could be employed to build these megawatt parks.

“All money spent on purchasing power from our neighbouring countries could then be paid to Namibians, strengthening our economy. Since the Electricity Control Board has not yet established and enforced a net-metering agreement to be implemented by all distributors across Namibia, the best return on investment is currently achieved if the client can consume all the solar (alternative) energy they produce during the day, reducing their daytime consumption. The net-metering implementation is expected to be enforced within the next year,” noted Von Gossler.

NEC firmly believes that a grid-tied solar system is an effective means to reduce monthly electricity costs. The system at Maerua Mall is anticipated to “pay back” the solar investment in just five years, taking into account an estimated increase in utility power cost of 11 percent per year.

“The solar grid-tied system installed at Maerua Mall spans a 2 x 500kW system where Axitec polycrystalline panels were used. The choice to go with crystalline technology was based on the facts that these modules are more efficient (higher output per roof space available), have the best factory warranties of 12 years, have a 40-year proven track record for long-term performance and have the lowest degradation over their economical life expectancy of 25 years, guaranteed – no less than 85 percent of rated output after 25 years.

“NEC installed the 4 000 panels and 40 inverters at Maerua Mall in just under seven weeks and provides a one-year full workmanship warranty as well as the 12-year product warranty of our panels and 85 percent output guarantee over the economic lifetime of the solar system of 25 years.”

The NEC Group also incorporates NEC Stahl, which manufactures steel structures for the industry, especially the mining sector and is based in Swakopmund and Okahandja.

NEC, together with Alensy, constructed Namibia’s largest operating solar park near Omaruru, consisting of 34 000 panels installed in 22 rows on one dimensional trackers. The NEC group in turn is owned by the ITTUR group, which is the Namibian subsidiary of the Swedish ITTUR AB, owned by industrialist Johan Hansen.

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