Namibian utility unveils 40 MW solar capacity plan

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Namibia’s state-owned electric utility NamPower has unveiled a plan to add 220 MW of power generation capacity from renewables it says will help it become the leading electricity provider in the Southern African Development Community of 16 countries in central-southern Africa.

According to its Corporate Strategy and Business Plan 2019-2023, NamPower wants to add 150 MW of new generation capacity to its portfolio through 20 MW of solar, 40 MW each of biomass and wind and 50 MW of guaranteed ‘firm’ electricity output. The utility said it will also acquire a further 70 MW of generation capacity – 20 MW from solar and 50 MW wind.

NamPower announced its 20 MW Omburu PV Power Project will be built near Omaruru in the Erongo region in the northwest of the country. The NAD500 million ($34.5 million) facility is set for completion next year.

The second 20 MW solar project, which will be assigned to an independent power producer through a procurement exercise, will be built near Gobabis and Rehoboth town, in central Namibia, for around NAD400 million and is planned to come online in 2021.

The utility said its renewables plan is aligned with the National Integrated Resource Plan which envisages the development of electricity generation and transmission by increasing local capacity to 755 MW, and aims to provide access to electricity for half the population by 2022.

Reducing reliance on power imports

“For many years, Namibia’s electricity sector has been dependent on electricity imports from the SADC region but rapid technology development in solar PV, wind, biomass and storage will enable NamPower to diversify the local generation mix, reduce dependency on electricity imports and ultimately deliver a sustainable, least-cost supply mix to the economy of Namibia,” the company stated.

At the end of July, NamPower had an installed generation capacity of around 521 MW, with another 274 MW under development. Most of its operational capacity comes from hydropower, with 347 MW, and solar projects with an installed capacity of 117 MW. NamPower has signed power purchase agreements with independent power producers through tenders and the national Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff program.

Namibia’s largest solar plant is a 45.5 MW facility built by Spanish company Alten Energías Renovables. The project was developed by a joint venture between Alten, NamPower and Namibian solar companies Mangrove, Talyeni and First Place Investment. The nation’s other operational solar parks each have less than 5 MW capacity and are spread across Namibia.

Half of the nation’s electricity demand is met by imports from neighboring countries including financially troubled South African utility Eskom.