'Zim better off with solar energy'

Published: 21 June 2015
Zimbabwe must seriously venture into solar power generation for the country to address its electricity shortages and reduce load-shedding, economic experts say.

This comes as the country is currently grappling with massive power shortages emanating from the generation of approximately 1 100 megawatts (MW) against national demand of at least 2 200MW as other countries are seeking energy alternatives such as gas, solar and wind in favour of hydro power.

Cade Zvavanjanja, an analyst with Greeyps Risk, Efficiency and Development Consultants said the adoption of solar projects was a socio-economic and environmentally-sound strategy despite financial requirements limitations.

"There is need for solar incentives, rebates and lease options at commercial and household level so as to reduce costs and promote uptake," said Zvavanjanja.

He added that the initiative would also bring an opportunity of growing industries were solar panels can be developed and manufactured locally.

Zvavanjanja, however, noted that the current situation demanded quick wins and short term solutions in electricity availability and this required reducing electricity sector commercial and technical losses which will boost revenue by between 12 to 20 percent.

"The second strategy is energy efficiency and management through a virtual power station this will give us above 150 MW," he said.

This comes as Noah Gwariro, Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC)'s managing director, last week told journalists that the country has selected four companies to undertake solar power projects at an estimated cost of $570 million to mitigate the crippling power shortages in the country.

The projects will be implemented at sites identified in Gwanda, Plumtree and Munyati.

"We are currently in the process of adjudication and we expect to complete this by end of June.

The solar projects are expected to put an additional 300MW to the national power grid as the sun shines," said Gwariro.

He also noted that each solar power plant is expected to generate 100MW and the estimated construction period is nine months.

"We are endowed with a lot of solar energy in Zimbabwe and this is a source of free energy once you have installed the equipment. The advantage is that the stations in Hwange can run out of coal and other stations can run out of a source of supply but the sunshine will continue to be available," he said.

The solar projects are part of the $5 billion power expansion projects expected to generate a total of 3 500MW over a period of five to six years.

Zimbabwe has been criticised for its slow response to implement solar projects in the country at a time when citizens are being subjected to acute load shedding as power utility Zesa Holdings battles to raise sufficient capital to invest and build new power stations to generate enough electricity.

Economists have said this had affected industry as most companies cut their operating hours while the intermittent power cuts had also affected plant and machinery, some of which need constant power supplies.

One of the aspiring investors in the sector and who has tried to capitalise on the new energy thrust is businessman Wicknell Chivayo who flew in his German partners Green Solar Europa in 2012 to carry out feasibility studies on the viability of solar energy ventures in Zimbabwe.

Economist Patrick Zhuwao recently said there was need for Zimbabwe to adopt solar technology and spread it to households across the country.

"Households could become independent power producers and generate electricity for personal use during the day. That power would be fed into the grid when it is not being used within the house. Such solar generation at household level would be cheaper than running the domestic generators that we are running," he said.

Zhuwao also noted that the use of solar energy, which is readily available in the country, was much better than relying on hydro power.

"The drought of 1992 placed severe strain on Kariba even before both Zimbabwe and Zambia had doubled their generation capacity. That generation capacity has not had any corresponding increase in stored in the form of the water body," he said.

"What this means is that a drought of the magnitude of the 1992 drought would leave us in deep trouble. We would be better placed if we were to have solar generation which would enable us to save the water during the day and only deploy Kariba in the absence of the sun to generate electricity," added Zhuwao.
- dailynews
Tags: Solar,


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