First major on-grid solar plant
In May 2011, Nampower entered into an agreement with Soitec for the development of an on-grid power generation plant. The Usib Primary School was identified as a suitable site on the basis of its proximity to Windhoek, allowing for easy access and monitoring.
The concentrator power plant was supplied and installed by Soitec at a cost of approximately N$1,024 million as part of their corporate social investment programme at no cost to the country during July 2013. Alensy, a local company was sub-contracted by Soitec to construct the power plant on its behalf.
Training to ensure local competence to operate and maintain the power plant will be transferred to NamPower employees over a two year period by Alensy, Soitec’s sub-contractor.
“Three employees have already attained theoretical training in July 2013 with practical training to be conducted on site,” said Nampower MD, Paulinus Shilamba.
Said Shilamba, “The technical commissioning of the plant was carried out in July 2013,” adding that the plant had been feeding electricity to the Usib Primary School and hostel on a daily basis.
The Usib concentrator power plant, Shilamba explained, is designed to be a full-time on-grid power station with an overall electrical output of 26 kilowatts. The system consists of two Soitec modules, mounted on a dual-axis tracker designed to follow the sun. “It ensures that the focus point of the concentrated sunlight is on the cells at every moment of the day to maximise the power output,” he said.
“The Usib 26 kilowatt concentrator power plant is therefore an ideal blueprint in this regard as it provides the necessary technological framework and conditions for the successful transfer and development of this specific renewable energy technology for on-grid power generation. It is also a good example of how the energy sector can make a meaningful contribution to socio-economic development in the country through utilization of the energy of the sun, a natural resource Namibia is blessed with in abundance,” he added.
Delivering a speech on behalf of Minister Isak Katali, NamPower board member and Director within the Ministry of Mines and Energy Selma-Penna Utonhi said, “Namibia has a huge potential of renewable energy resources, with a direct solar radiation of about 300 kilowatt hours per square metre per annum in some areas, being the best in the world, and thus offering opportunities for households not connected to the national grid.”
She encouraged the project partners to replicate the project in other parts of the country, particularly in remote villages. Drawing attention to the financial impediments she said, “I am convinced through formal partnerships this can be realised.”
“The ministry would like to see further investment in the development of solar energy throughout the rest of the country and hope that private investors in the form of Independent Power Producers could assist the government to meet its development challenges,” she said.
Jose Beriot, vice president of European and African solar projects development with Soitec’s solar energy division said, “Our concentrated power plant technology is perfectly suited for countries like Namibia, where there is a high direct normal irradiation. In such regions, our technology, which is already installed in more than 20 countries, achieves a module efficiency of 32%.” He added, “Since the plant was connected to the grid in July 2013, it is producing an average of 136 kilowatt hours per day, reducing the amount of electricity consumed from the grid by Usib school and community to merely 4.6 kilowatt hours per day.”