Aerial view of
off-grid renewable
energy project in Namibia.
 
Tsumkwe, Namibia — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 03 February 2012 – The Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN) has called on the government of Namibia to incorporate renewable energy into the mainstream of the country’s energy supply.

Making the appeal here, DRFN associate, Mary Seely said this process should be spearheaded by large utilities and electricity distributors, rather than small non-governmental organisations.

Although the research organisation is not primarily dedicated to infrastructural development, she added that it had decided to contribute to fund the Tsumkwe solar/diesel hybrid power station because infrastructure development was a vital precondition towards applied research.

Seely is, however, concerned whether cost-reflective electricity tariffs hamper economic development or whether they will enhance innovation towards economic growth. She also warned that the abrupt ending of projects was a great shortcoming for international development.

“The project proved enormously challenging and required technical know-how beyond our ready expertise. This absorbed most of our attention and most of the learning experience was internal,” she said.

NamPower managing director, Paulinus Shilamba, hailed the occasion, adding that the solar/diesel hybrid system is an historical occasion for Namibia in terms of technological innovation in green energy.

According to Shilamba, in order to connect Tsumkwe to the NamPower grid network, 500km of new transmission lines would be required, a situation that could prove costly and not viable economically.

He vowed that the venture was a beginning of a series of similar off-grid initiatives to enhance rural and off-grid electrification, a process that is expected to release some capacity in the national grid for other uses.

The Tsumkwe solar/diesel hybrid plant is designed to be a full-time off-grid power station with an overall electrical output of 410 kilowatts. The solar portion of the system consists of 201 kilowatts of solar panels, 200 kilowatts of inverters and 720kWh battery storage.

There are three generator sets housed in the power house. Adequate back-up to the solar output is provided by two small 140 KVA generators that are designed to work in tandem. Contingency back-up will be provided by a 315 KVA generator, which was the original source of power.