flexible energy
Parabolic trough plant Kathu, South Africa. Source: SENER

The African continent is home to the youngest and fastest-growing population in the world, accounting for half of the global population growth from now until 2050, as stated by the WEF. The concern raised is the ability of African nations to meet the resulting energy requirements as a result of this rapid population growth.

By Siyabonga Mbanjwa, Managing Director of SENER Southern Africa

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 3-2020.
Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

It will be of paramount importance for the continent’s economic prospects and the progress of society to address the energy requirements of a growing population. Doing so requires the establishment of reliable, affordable and flexible energy systems supplying mainly renewables to rural, urban, accessible and inaccessible parts of the continent. This will entail the use of renewable and other traditional local energy sources.

Innovation is SENER’s most distinctive feature. SENER aims to further meet humankind’s needs by implementing new solutions, developing new processes and entering into new areas of technology. It is for this reason that SENER is working on making green energy solutions more cost-effective through the integration of different energy sources, such as photovoltaic and wind power, which are amongst the most affordable renewable energy solutions. These are integrated into the electrical systems and used in combination with other more stable technologies, thanks to the hybridisation of solutions and the use of energy storage systems.

SENER has been involved in 29 solar thermal power plants built all around the world, using its own technology, and most of them featuring thermal storage. The last one, nearing completion, is the Noor Ouarzazate III plant in Morocco, the largest facility to use tower and molten salt storage technologies, which is already in commercial operation. SENER was responsible for the engineering, turnkey construction and operation activities, and also provided all the technology.

Our proven experience in solar power places us in an unbeatable position in hybridisation projects, which open a new landscape on Africa’s energy map.

Leading Africa on a path towards sustainable power through hybridisation

SENER is making significant strides in terms of hybridisation technologies. Thanks to our extensive experience in the design and turnkey construction of low-emissions biomass power plants, courtesy of three projects within Spain, SENER is able to combine the advantages of this energy source with those of a solar facility, with central tower and molten salt storage technologies.

This allows us to achieve a power plant where biomass conversion is improved thanks to the high efficiency of the molten salt cycle. Furthermore, the combined investment is lower, since a single turbine (and common area) is employed for both facilities. This again optimises the resources by reducing operation and maintenance costs.

SENER has been involved in 29 solar thermal power plants built all around the world, using its own technology, and most of them featuring thermal storage.

Other hybridisation possibilities include district heating, which can use the excess heat from the solar thermal cycle at a low cost, as well as water desalination in order to reduce the cost of this process and avoid the use of other energy sources (fuel saving). With regards to the latter, SENER has its own patent for this process.

In all these fields, SENER is building on its experience in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of power plants, where it has applied its own proven and effective technology. As a result, the company is a key player in generating hybridisation solutions that can combine all these technologies to yield highly efficient power plants.

Decentralised energy generation

Another noteworthy shift in the energy landscape is the move from centralised power plants to decentralised energy generation, which includes both residential and sources of industrial power generation. Distributed smart generation is needed to create more sustainable, flexible and resilient energy generation systems.

To be able to adapt the generation of renewable energy to the demand for power, access to smart control and energy management systems that are based upon predictive analytics and digital engineering tools are required, all of which SENER provides.

Ultimately, the use of renewable energy solutions in combination with traditional power supply measures will enable African countries to keep up with the growth in energy consumption and also allow the continent to chart a course for its development that is far less carbon-intensive compared to the rest of the globe.

About the company
SENER is a private engineering and technology group founded in 1956 and specialised in offering technological solutions. It accomplishes specific activities related to engineering and construction, and has industrial holdings in companies working in the areas of energy, environment and aeronautics. www.southernafrica.sener