Located at southern Namibia, the Usib concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) demonstration plant was officially inaugurated. The 26 kWp CPV plant, which consists of 2 CPV systems, results from a cooperative agreement with Soitec and NamPower. The plant generates solar electricity which powers Usib Primary School and a water pump which irrigates the community garden.
Under the terms of the cooperative agreement, NamPower selected the site for the plant, liaised with the relevant stakeholders and, as of July 2015, will operate and maintain the CPV systems for a period of 18 years, while Soitec constructed and currently operates the plant, before transferring the knowledge, operations and maintenance to NamPower.
Isak Katali, Namibia’s Minister of Mines and Energy, highlighted in his inauguration speech that this project is a concrete example of “renewable energy in practice”. He said: “it is clear through projects such as this that plenty of opportunities exist for small-scale renewable energy projects. Namibia has a huge potential of renewable energy resources, with a direct solar radiation of about 3000kWh/square meters per annum in some areas of Namibia being one of the best in the world, and thus offering opportunities for households not connected to the national electricity grid.”
Katali additionally explained the government’s commitment to supporting renewable energy technologies. Independent Power Producers (IPP) in solar, wind and biomass are thus strongly encouraged to invest in renewable energy projects such as this one.
“The Rural Electricity Master Plan facilitated by my ministry has identified areas where grid-electrification will remain a challenge in the foreseeable future and hence solar power has been the solution,” added Katali. “I would therefore like to request the project partners to consider replicating this project in other suitable areas, particularly to remote villages in the country that are far away from the national grid. I am aware of the huge financial implications of such projects, but I’m convinced that through forming partnerships this can be realized.”
José Bériot, vice president of European and African solar projects development with Soitec’s solar energy division, commented: “Our CPV technology is suited for countries like Namibia, where there is a high direct normal irradiance. 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 kWh per day, reducing the amount of electricity consumed from the grid by Usib school and community to merely 4.6 kWh per day. We are very proud of this project, as it perfectly illustrates how our CPV technology contributes to social and economic development in Africa, to which Soitec is strongly committed”.
The Managing Director of NamPower, Mr Paulinus Shilamba highlighted that NamPower has done a lot in terms of promoting the use of renewable sources of energy and said that the company will continue to do so to make sure that the share of renewable energy resources in the Namibian energy mix is increased to optimal levels. Referring to the Usib 26kW CPV Plant, he said: “this is an ideal blueprint in this regard as it provides the necessary technological framework and conditions for the successful transfer and deployment 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.