Text by Willie Olivier
Namibia’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) plant and one of the most productive plants in the world, the 37MW Hardap Solar Polar PV plant was officially inaugurated on Thursday, 20 June 2019.
Situated on 100 ha of land east of Mariental, the plant came into operation in November last year. It has an expected lifespan of 25 years and is projected to meet about 5% of the country’s annual electricity demand – enough to meet the annual electricity needs of over 70,000 Namibians.
The plant will make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 33,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year during its lifespan. A total of N$750 million has been invested in the plant to date.
Speaking at the event, Alten Africa Executive President Juan Laso said the plant could even be the most productive PV plant in the world because of its technology and the extremely high irradiation levels at Mariental.
Laso said the company attaches great importance to corporate social responsibility and has developed an Environmental, Social, Health and Safety Management system specifically for Alten Hardap. The system has allowed the company “… to identify and manage our risks appropriately and to make the most of potential opportunities to act under the best industry working practices to achieve our goals,” he said.
Alten Africa is the controlling shareholder with a 51% stake, while NamPower has a 19% share. NamPower strongly insisted on a 30% local participation in the project and the remaining 30% is held by three local shareholders, First Place Investment, Talyeni Investments and Mangrove – which are all fully owned by women.
NamPower Managing Director Kahenge Haulofu said the plant is a demonstration of the utility’s “… unwavering commitment to support local partnerships, local Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and embrace renewable energy solutions. The Hardap Solar PV Plant, Haulofu said, was the first renewable energy power plant procured through a tendering process. He pointed out that, “The cost benefit of electricity from engaging in competitive bidding cannot be overemphasized, as evidenced by the base tariff of this plant of 80.7 cents compared to N$1.37 cents of the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Program (REFIT) projects. The energy produced by this plant is only beaten by our Ruacana power station supply, being the cheapest available,” he said.
Haulofu said NamPower continues to import more than 60% of its annual electricity requirements to meet demands and outlined NamPower’s planned generation projects to reduce the country’s reliance on imported electricity. Short-to-medium term supply projects (of two to four years) to be built and owned by NamPower include, amongst others, a 40MW biomass plant and a 40MW wind power plant, while IPPs will develop 20MW PV and 50MW wind power plants. NamPower and the government continue to work towards the realization of long-term projects such as the 600MW Baynes Hydro Power Project and a 135MW Concentrated Solar Power project, Haulofu said.
He said 14 of the 18 Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are already operational and is supplying 117MW of renewable energy into the grid. The other four IPP plants would produce a further 59MW when they come into operation.
Deputy Mines and Energy Minister Kornelia Shilunga said in a speech read on behalf of Minister Tom Alweendo, Namibia imported 73% of its annual electricity requirements last year – the highest import figure since independence. This was mainly due to the low level of the Kunene River which affected generation at Ruacana, as well as the availability of cheap energy on the Day-Ahead Market.
The minister pointed out that NamPower imported 48% of its annual electricity requirements between 1990 and 2009 and 38% between 2010 and 2017. This is “… an indication that Namibia’s power is in need of local strengthening to alleviate this dependency on external sources,” Alweendo said.
“The Ministry will continue to put measures in place to reduce reliance on imports, create competition in the market thereby lowering electricity for the benefit of our people. Electricity is central to our national development plans’ focus areas such as high and sustained economic growth, employment creation and increased income equality,” Alweendo said.
Alten Africa, the majority shareholder in the Hardap Solar PV Power Plant, is part of the Alten Energías Renovables group which has built plants in Spain, Italy, India, Peru and Mexico. In addition to Namibia, the company has also signed PPAs with Kenya and Nigeria. Its biggest project to date, a 350MW plant in Mexico, came into operation in September 2018.