The plant in the south of the country, which will be commissioned tomorrow, is a joint venture between Alten, state-owned power company NamPower and Namibian solar companies Mangrove, Talyeni and First Place Investment.
The southern African nation is a net importer of electricity and is promoting solar to reduce its dependence on domestic hydroelectricity and power imports from neighboring South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Nampower has a hydro generation capacity of 490 MW and the company’s statistics show peak demand reached 639 MW last June.
French company InnoSun already operates two renewable energy plants in Namibia, with a total capacity of 10 MW.
Isabel Saracho, communication and marketing adviser at Alten Energías Renovables in Madrid, told pv magazine the new plant will be productive because of the location’s extremely high irradiation levels.
Solar could reduce energy imports
The plant is in the Mariental municipality, in Namibia’s southern Hardap Region, 278 km south of the capital, Windhoek. Mariental has a hot desert climate with average annual rainfall of just 194mm.
“[The] Alten Solar Power Hardap PV Plant is the largest photovoltaic solar power plant in Namibia,” confirmed Saracho. The project occupies 100 hectares and will generate enough electricity to power 70,000 residents, she added.
Alten also has operations in the Netherlands, Spain, Kenya, Nigeria, Mexico and Mozambique.
Statistics obtained from the Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy estimate electricity imports could fall to 20% of their current levels by 2025 if solar is rolled out more widely. Solar plants including Alten’s have added 67 MW to the national grid in the last five years, the figures showed.
The government recently permitted independent power producers to sell directly to consumers, replacing the former single buyer model which stipulated electricity suppliers could sell only to NamPower.
In November, Bank Windhoek, Namibia’s second biggest lender, launched a green bond on the Namibia Stock Exchange to fund renewables projects. The bank is implementing partner of the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Energy Finance fund established by the French Development Agency to finance renewable energy projects in Namibia.
By Chamwe Kaira