Biomass power study almost complete
Exactly two years after inviting tenders for a study to analyse the potential of biomass power plants in the country, NamPower has announced that the report is almost complete.
NamPower said results of the pre-feasibility study are promising and the power utility has already given the go-ahead to continue with a full-scale feasibility study while also investigating the feasibility of a hybrid biomass/CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) plant.
Nampower MD, Paulinus Shilamba told the Economist that the process has taken two years because a lot of stakeholders needed to be consulted.
“Off course it’s not an easy study, it takes long. We have to consult also with the farmers. We had to do a lot of modelling, but the final report has now been produced. We expect the final report to be presented to us during the course of next month (June). As soon as the report is finalised we want to start with the detailed feasibility study of a hybrid type of system combining biomass with CSP and that will take some time, maybe another two years, before we can actually start with the implementation,” Shilamba said.
According to a tender notice issued by NamPower in 2011, the pre-feasibility study will provide potential investors and developers a clear road map in developing power projects fuelled by biomass from encroacher bush.
It is estimated that 26 million hectares of agricultural land have already been affected by bush encroachment which poses a major threat to agricultural productivity as large areas of arable agricultural land become unusable. Using the invader bush in biomass power plants to generate power is also viewed as a potential solution to the problem of desertification caused by bush encroachment.
In an interview with the Economist at the time of the announcement of the tender, Robert Schultz from the Desert Research Foundation, an organisation that runs the 250kW biomass power plant near Outjo, said he was excited by NamPower’s plans to study the potential of biomass power plants.
He said at the time that preliminary findings have shown that there is capacity to run as many as 240 decentralised distribution-embedded biomass power plants across the country.
“The capacity is there and the resources are there,” he said. “Standing biomass resources are estimated at over 260 million tonnes. Van Eck probably needs about 100,000 tonnes of biomass fuel per year if running for three months per year and if you divide the available resources it gives you about 2600 years of available fuel. This is of course a very rudimentary estimate but does serve to put the available resources into perspective.”
Schultz said the advantages of having biomass energy power plants is that it creates a form of energy development outside major towns which, in turn, creates economic opportunities in other areas. “Reducing bush encroachment improves agricultural production. Coupled with decentralised power generation, you actually create more employment opportunities for every kilowatt-hour generated.”
He said biomass power plants are also important as only 30% of the population has access to electricity.
“For some biomass technologies you can easily consider off-grid power supply. For example, the EU-funded Tsumkwe Energy project is a 200kW Solar/Diesel off-grid power plant providing electricity supply to about 200 to 300 households. In this case, the diesel generator can easily be substituted by a biomass energy technology,” Schultz added.
Biomass power plants are generally considered much cleaner than coal fired power plants as they produce very few green house gases compared to coal fired power plants like Van Eck.