Walvis Bay — Plans to invest billions of dollars in power generation have been revealed by both the private sector and the national power utility NamPower, as the country braces itself for possible serious power shortages in the coming years.
A group of local and international private investors announced - in an exclusive interview with New Era - plans to set up a N$3 billion solar hybrid power plant and a waste oil recycling plant at the mining town of Arandis, which could contribute at least 26 percent to the country's future power supply.
NamPower Managing Director Paulinus Shilamba last week announced a N$7 billion spending on transmission expansion to ensure that electricity is reliably delivered to all parts of the country over the next five to seven years.
NamPower also said they were ditching plans for emergency diesel generators, which were to be installed to ease power supply deficits expected in the coming years, in favour of developing a N$3 billion 250MW long-term generation facility in Erongo Region.
The announcement came at a time when NamPower sounded the alarm bells over future power supply in the country, citing difficult negotiations for power purchase agreements with neighbouring countries and unguaranteed power imports from South Africa, which historically is Namibia's largest power supplier.
The power utility again called on consumers to use eletricity sparingly during the peak hours of between 06:00 and 09:00 and between 18:00 and 21:00. "The possibility of load shedding can only be avoided if we all work together as a country, with each player including customers playing a part in contributing to the solution," Shilamba cautioned last week.
The solar hybrid power plant will be developed on the east side of Arandis by a company called Arandis Power, which is a joint venture between Namibian and international companies in partnership with Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) Africa, a subsidiary of CEC of Zambia.
Ezio Vernetti an executive of Arandis Power said the plant would be a combination of solar power photovoltaic (PV) electrical generation and traditional thermal heavy fuel oil (HFO) power supply. It would be a first for Africa and the largest load base generation plant in the country.
Vernetti said the originality of the project lies in the future power station's solar park with an installed capacity of up to 50MW solar panels. Each of the solar panels will have a tracking system that enables it to track the sun during the day and collect energy. Expectations are that the solar park will produce at least 127 000 watt hours of electricity per year at no fuel cost.
The solar park will not be operated in the traditional manner where electricity is self-dispatched into the national grid as and when an electrical current is available, but the PV element will be used exclusively as a fuel saving mechanism for power produced by the HFO engines.
"The PV component does not connect directly to the national power grid, but the flow of electrons is managed by the power station's internal control room to assure a continuous clean flow of energy to the consumer. The function of the PV component of the Arandis Power 120MW hybrid power plant is purely to reduce the fuel bill of the power station and decrease the overall cost of electricity for NamPower and the country. This would be the first time that a solar park is fully integrated into a thermal power plant as an integral component of the power generation system," explained Varnetti.
"Of the total N$3 billion required, 30 per cent will come from shareholders while the remaining 70 percent will be bank loans. Plans are to start with the construction of the power plant later this year and it would take about 22 months to complete. The project will include the construction of a brand new connection substation and a short power line which will both be donated to NamPower after commissioning. However, to get the project off the ground we need to sign a government implementation agreement. We understand that the Ministry of Mines and Energy is actively working on the matter, but all the independent power producers (IPPs) are yet to be presented with a draft copy," he explained. Construction of the plant is expected to employ 600 people while 65 permanent jobs would be created upon completion.