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Kunene flow eases power woes

The rapidly improving water flow in the Kunene river has helped ease electricity supply challenges, power utility Nampower said this week.
The Kunene River houses Namibia’s only Hydro Power Station, the Ruacana Power Station which forms the core of Namibia’s local power supply system. With an installed capacity of 332 MW, output at the Ruacana power station currently varies between 140 and 240 MW depending on the time of the day.
Before the improved flow, NamPower last week said the water flow in the Kunene river was at 60 cubic meters per second, lower than the 70 cubic meters per second required to operate one turbine and the 280 cubic meters per second required to operate the whole power station at full load.

This reduced flow is the  result of the severe drought  in the northern parts of the country and in the southern half of Angola.
The severe drought and a lack of electricity supply guarantees from Eskom forced NamPower recently to appeal to its customers to continue implementing electricity saving measures such as switching off air-conditioners, geysers and swimming pool pumps and all other non-essential appliances during peak times to reduce demand.
But the heavy downpours being experienced in the southwestern parts of Angola, the main catchment area of the Kunene river, and in some parts of Namibia has resulted in the rapid improvement of the Kunene River flow. Thursday’s water flow reading was recorded at 130 cubic meters per second, more than double the 60 cubic meters per second announced by NamPower at a media briefing last week Tuesday.
In an e-mail response to questions from the Economist on Thursday, NamPower said the Ruacana Hydro Power is now running three turbines at full/ part load for most of the day (05H00 – 22H00) resulting in an output of between 140 and 240 MW depending on the time of the day.
NamPower said it expects output at the Ruacana power station to increase if the river flow continues to improve.
“The power supply situation in the country will improve from any increase in river flow because the station will then be able to operate at full capacity – 332 MW – if the river flow goes above 280 Cusec. The maximum station output accounts for 67% of the system demand during peak hours, and increases to approximately 80% during off-peak hours.  Increased generation at Ruacana will mean less imports from regional partners,” NamPower said.
The power utility announced earlier that it intends to invest about N$45 million to replace the turbine runners of the old three units.
 The resultant efficiency gains are expected to add an additional 15 MW to the power station, bringing the total installed capacity of Ruacana to 347 MW.
The installation of the first runner is expected in April 2014, with the last runner to be commissioned by October 2014.
Namibia has a daily average demand of 350 MW peaking at 520MW.

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