WITH an energy crisis looming, due to the delays in forging ahead with the Kudu Gas Project, which was envisaged to go online in 2019, there is no doubt that solar energy should take up a key position in Namibia’s energy mix.
Solar power, therefore, needs to be prioritised by both government and the private sector.
Namibia currently has the third highest electricity prices within the SADC region, and indeed, the high electricity prices are an unsustainable situation, which could erode the country’s industrialisation efforts.
Essentially, it’s time to reassess the notion of ‘new energy’, while putting solar energy at the centre, as a long-term sustainable energy solution.
This is borne out by the immense amount of energy potential that the sun can provide, versus any other resource, such as wind, nuclear, biomass or geothermal.
To place this into perspective, the theoretical potential of solar power is 89 terawatts (TW), which represents more energy striking the earth’s surface in 90 minutes (480 Exajoules or EJ), than the worldwide energy consumption for the entire year 2001 (430 EJ), from all other resources combined.
It is also notable that energy is the most important resource for humanity and solar energy is the ultimate energy source. The sun, as an energy source, has a number of advantages. It is abundant, it is essentially inexhaustible and it doesn’t discriminate, but provides equal access to all users.
Off-grid solar power should be Namibia’s energy future. Off-grid simply means a system where people don’t rely on the support of remote infrastructure, like connectivity to a centralised electricity transmission line, but instead use a standalone independent power supply. Such systems are perfect for people living in rural areas, but more recently they are also applicable to urban dwellers too.
Earth presently consumes energy at a rate of about 17.7 trillion watts (17 TW), which is expected to reach 30 TW by 2050, assuming similar population growth rate.
The solar energy irradiating the surface of the Earth is almost four orders of magnitude larger than the rate our civilisation can consume it. This is obviously more than sufficient, if harnessed properly.
The energy potential of the sun is 120 000 TW at the Earth’s surface. More practically, assuming only 10 percent efficiency and coverage of less than 2 percent of the Earth’s surface, solar energy would still supply us with 50 TW.
Black solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are currently the most potent absorbers of power from the sun. A game changer would be a new technology, where such PV panels are transparent. This could then replace regular glass.
For example, on large buildings, the vertical glass panels can literally become the source that powers the building.
In conclusion, we need to urgently realise that now is the time to strengthen the capacity of the national electricity grid, and enjoy the benefits of solar energy generation.
The government needs to offer increased incentives and financing, to attract investments in PV solar generators and mini-grid PV solar stations.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015