Surrounded by South Africa, land-locked Swaziland is looking to develop a 35MW biomass power plant, which will commence operation in three years.
According to Renewable Energy World, once operational, the plant will supply an estimated 28% of the country’s total electricity demand.
Biomass to use sawmill residue as feedstock
A local forestry and sawmilling company, Montigny, is currently developing plans with various partners to drive the project from pre-feasibility to bankable feasibility.
The Swazi-based firm owns 60,000 hectares of Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified plantations, which will be used as the primary feedstock for the biomass plant.
Kelly Cure, head of strategic initiatives at Montigny Investments, told Renewable Energy World: “Our company focuses on sustainably maximising the value of our forests, while leaving a positive impact on Swaziland and continuing to grow as a leader in the region."
With an obvious need for additional power coupled with a substantial amount of wood waste, Cure, through research, discovered that forest residue left over from the timber harvesting process would be a suitable and sufficient feedstock.
“We now understand that our plantations can sustainably supply nearly 30% of the country’s energy,” she said.
“Our estimates indicate that we will be able to supply 30 of the 35MW to the national grid and use the remaining 5MW internally.”
With attempts to reach financial closure within the next year, Cure said: “The biggest challenge thus far has been agreeing the right partners to take this long-term venture forward; although we are getting closer to the decision point."
“We are quite hopeful that by working with the local utility, Swaziland Electricity Company, the regulatory body Swaziland Energy Regulatory Authority, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Members of Parliament and our community that we can enable this promising project to progress,” Cure added.
Cure believes that Swaziland has the potential to become 100% reliant on renewable power through harnessing the abundant indigenous resources.
“Between the timber and sugar industries alone we estimate 150MW could be sustainably produced each year,” she said.
According to Renewable Energy World, in 2014 the African Development Bank (AfDB) issued a $990,000 grant to fund three studies under an energy sector support programme in Swaziland.
Alex Rugamba, director of the AfDB’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department, said: “With this project, we hope to find ways to harness that potential and address some of the primary challenges around limited energy access such as low energy resources, limited investment in power generation and excessive reliance on imported power."
He added: “This will in turn attract private sector investment.”
Featured image: Nigeria Electricity Hub