Arandis Thermal-Solar Plant Construction Starts

THE construction of Africa’s first thermal-solar power plant at Arandis could start before the end of this year.

Even though there are thermal (heavy fuel oil) and solar power plants in Africa, the 120 MegaWatt (MW) ‘hybrid’ (where the thermal and solar energy is merged) will be the first of its kind on the continent, Arandis Power MD Ezio Vernetti told The Namibian at a press conference in Swakopmund yesterday.

The power station will take 22 months to construct, and will have a new connection substation and a short power line that will both be donated to NamPower.

The total project cost is estimated at N$3 billion and will contribute about 26% of Namibia’s electricity requirement.

“The hybrid station will offer multiple aantages to the national grid and to the end-user,” said Vernetti.

The plant is said to consist of eight 15MW heavy fuel oil (HFO) engines weighing 358 tonnes each, with a “9th engine” being a solar park with a capacity of up to 50MW of photovoltaic (solar) panels.

The originality also lies in the fact that the solar park is not operated in the traditional manner in which electricity is self-dispatched into the national grid when an electrical current is generated, but rather the solar energy is used as a fuel-saving mechanism for the power produced by the HFO engines.

“The function of the solar park of the Arandis Power’s 120MW hybrid power plant is purely to reduce the fuel bill of the power station and to bring down the overall cost of electricity for NamPower and the country,” explained Vernetti.

The savings on this ‘fuel bill’ could be up to N$150 million per year – which equates to about 23 000 tonnes of fuel a year.

The HFO plant would, however, require a 45 000 tonne depot at Walvis Bay for its “low sulfur fuel”.

Namibia currently imports over 60% of its energy requirement but the import option is disappearing for NamPower due to the regional electricity shortage.

If things remain unchanged in Namibia, there will be a deficit of electricity amounting to over 80% of its daily needs by the last quarter of 2015 (420MW shortfall out of 510MW of peak demand based on NamPower data).

NamPower’s long term solution is the Kudu Gas project, which is an enormous N$25 billion project – almost double the country’s foreign reserves and over 83% of the total 2012 government revenue. The project could be realised by 2020.

Arandis Power is a joint venture of Namibian and international companies featuring CEC Africa (a subsidiary of Copperbelt Energy Corporation of Zambia, which also partners NamPower in the Kudu Gas project).

Source : The Namibian