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SA power supplier gives steam to Namibian desalination project

Namibia’s water shortage has come to a crux. Mines and population growth require the country to consider alternative water sources.

In the face of recent water shortages at mines in Namibia’s Erongo region, two of the country’s largest mines were without water for two days in June, while Namibia’s national newspaper, The Namibian, reported that the Swakopmund reservoir was at a mere 500m3 at one stage this winter where the population requires 11,000 m3.

Seawater desalination has come up as a number one solution for water provision to mines and offers Namibia’s citizens some relief from the near-drought conditions they have faced in certain areas this year.

South African based company, Superwatt, is installing generators to assist with the new seawater desalination plant for the combined Areva/Uramin Namibia uranium exploration project. The desalination plant is just 30km north of Swakopmund, ensuring less mine dependence on Namibia’s water supply.

In a statement in July, Swakopmund Council CEO, Eckart Demasius said, “We need to speed up the desalination developments here to make sure we have enough water. More mines are coming that will need more water. The communities are growing and need more water. And the water supply systems are not up to standard.”

As such, the desalination plant set to supply the Uramin Namibia exploration project is at full speed ahead. Supplying generators which will provide independent electricity to the plant in the form of a 6MVA synchronised system, Superwatt will ensure that the plant can begin its work once all generator installations are completed by September.

The plant will pump fresh water over 50km via two pump stations to the Uranium mine currently under construction in the Namibian desert. Construction for the desalination plant has begun, and will be completed towards the end of the year.

“The units are first shipped to Cape Town where Superwatt’s engineers carry out the testing and pre-delivery inspection, and configure the synchronisation,” Patrick Gaertner, Director of Superwatt, explains. The first unit has already been delivered to site, the second unit is in Cape Town undergoing its pre-delivery inspection, and the next two units are scheduled to arrive by mid August 2009.

This power capacity of 6MVA is sufficient to commission the plant in stages until it receives power from Nampower. “After connection to Nampower the system will be dismantled, leaving one of the 1.5MVA units as a back-up power source and relocating three of the units to the mine. These three units will then be expanded to provide a back-up solution at the new mine,” Gaertner continues.

Because the Namibian coast has one of the most corrosive climates in the world, the system has been fitted with marine grade equipment, designed for a minimum lifecycle of 20 years.

“We are proud to associate Superwatt’s first major installation outside of South Africa with a project that provides a solution to water shortage in Namibia,” Gaertner closes.