Solar power plant commissioned

Windhoek – Namibia is moving a step closer to self-sufficiency in power generation and turning into a role model in sustainable development and key player in the energy sector with the inauguration of a utility-scale ground mounted Photovoltaic (PV) power plant which was inaugurated on May 13, 2015.

The state-of-the-art 4.5 Mega Watt (MW) solar power plant, dubbed Omburu Solar PV Park is situated near Omaruru in Erongo Region in the west and has been introduced by InnoSun Energy Holdings.

The plant is expected to supply over 1 percent of the country’s domestic power to lessen the stress on current energy deficiency and hopefully also export to other Southern African countries experiencing electricity shortages.

The Omburu solar power plant, which has been installed on 16 hectares of arid land is expected to also feed NamPower’s national grid system.

Speaking at the inauguration, the Managing Director of Nampower, Paulinus Shilamba said that the power supply in Namibia and throughout the entire SADC region was strained and shortage of power supply has prompted most power utilities to implement demand side management (DSM) initiatives and unfortunately have had to include load shedding in the short term.

He said that amongst projects earmarked to ensure security of power supply in the future are the DSM programmes, such as the distribution of one million LED bulbs, subsidized installation of 20 000 solar water heaters; Van Eck power station rehabilitation, Ruacana Hydropower Station runners replacement, power negotiations with neighbouring power utilities, the Walvis Bat 250 MW project, Kudu and the Baynes hydro power project.

“As a country we are extremely fortunate that our power utility has a stable record of providing a consistent and reliable supply of quality electricity. This is a heritage which we will uphold a far as humanity is possible and I would like to reassure  our customers and stakeholders that NamPower has put adequate measures in place to ensure security of supply between 2016 and 2019 when Kudu (Gas) is expected to reach commercial operation,” he said.

Shilamba added that every single megawatt of power generated locally is very precious, even if it is of small scale, like the 4.5 MW Omburu Solar PV Plant, which will relieve the pressure from the national electricity grid.

He said that such power supply would be generated from renewable energy local sources –a positive step forward in realising the ultimate aim of generating 10 percent of the installed generation capacity from renewable energy at any given time as per the country’s Renewable Energy policy.

Gracing the occasion, the Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma said that the magnitude of this investment would have a positive impact on the growth of Omaruru and benefit Namibia as a whole.

“Similarly, this initiative will translate in enhanced Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) benefits for the region and the country at large. I am particularly proud to know that the InnoSun Company has successfully managed to cement itself in the Namibian energy sector industry and intend to become a formidable force to be reckoned with,” he said.

Nujoma said that giving people access to modern energy is part of development but it does not end there as people need to use energy to their benefit and to develop themselves.   

“Energy is a basic need and all humans need to have access to all types of energy but currently, affordability in the energy sector is a problem as it is evidenced in the case of some SADC countries with off-grid solar voltaic electrification programmes requiring governments to subsidise the capital cost of equipment,” added the Founding Father.

He said that the country needs to adopt appropriate pricing and subsidies and ensure that the energy provided to citizens is not only ecologically sound but also affordable and easy to access.

“In this regard, new technologies and mechanisms such as grid-tie inverter solar panels have made solar power effective and affordable in many countries which have far less hours of sunshine yearly than the countries in our SADC region,” he reckoned.

Nujoma said that the role of wind and wave power and solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays must also be seriously investigated, because reduced carbon emissions can lead to increased use of electrical vehicles charged through photovoltaic (PV) arrays.  

“The majority of our citizens in rural areas cannot afford the cost of electricity, hence they opt to use the readily available biomass as is the case now in Namibia,” he added, saying that if the current energy situation of demand exceeding supply and use of fossil fuels and traditional biomass continues, there we will be  more problems to solve.

Nujoma said that this venture was also a true reflection of what can be achieved through smart partnership that enhances economic performance to benefit society at large.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the Omburu plant was held on 14 November 2014 (about six months ago), where the initial stage of negotiations up to the final project execution was executed.

Nampower and Innosun first signed the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in December 2013 between, followed by the Transmission Connection Agreement with Innosun in August 2014. The PPA will be for an initial period of 25 years.

Namibia has a shortfall of electricity which is expected to approach 650 MW and is currently generating only 29 percent of its own electricity.

The Omburu solar panels are installed on a single axis horizontal tracking system, which follows the sun from east to west.

The power plant will generate about 13.5 million kilo Watts per hour of electricity per year. It covers an area of 16 hectares with more than 33 000 panels, 100 inverters and 67 tracker.

May 2015
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