Renewable energy

Morocco invests in wind energy

Morocco is going ahead with its investment in clean energy, wind to be exact. Joint project between Moroccan Nateva Holding and France’s GDF Suez. The country has invested $685 million in the Tarfaya project that began in early 2013 and will be operational starting in October. 88 turbines out of a total planned of 131 have been built, producing up to 300 mega watts at full capacity. The wind farm is part of a plan that aims to have 42% of the country’s energy consumption coming from renewable energy by 2020.

Nigeria to build new power plants to meet growing energy demand

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Nigeria signed an agreement for the U.S. company to build power plants as Africa’s most populous nation continues to privatize and expand its power generation capacity, Reuters said Monday. Nigeria, which has Africa’s second-largest economy, aims to increase its electricity generating capacity by 10 gigawatts, and GE will potentially invest 10 percent to 15 percent in individual projects.

The memorandum of understanding between Nigeria and the Fairfield, Conn., company is part of an effort to increase the number of Nigeria’s natural gas-fueled power stations, though the company has yet to confirm either the type or number of plants to be built.

Nigeria, which has the world’s seventh-largest natural gas reserves, hasn’t been able to build up capacity for its 162 million citizens. The nation produces one-tenth of the 40,000 megawatts need to provide the populace with power.
Nigeria’s lack of capacity has left much of the useful natural gas trapped underground.

President Goodluck Jonathan unveiled plans 18 months ago to privatize the nation’s electric industry, with state-owned generation and distribution assets sold off; however, strife in Nigeria’s northern sections caused by a violent Islamist insurgency and political disputes put other plans on hold.

The nation’s 7.68 percent growth in gross domestic product was mostly fueled by non-oil sectors, according to Reuters.

Given Nigeria’s population size and growing energy needs this makes sense. Another reason why this makes sense is that Nigeria has, produces, exports lots of gas and oil. Several African nations are looking at using nuclear energy as the best and most practical way to meet their growing energy demands. Nigeria has to look down that road as a way to diversify and not be just reliant on one energy source.

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Africa goes Nuclear

Two nuclear reactors at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, near Cape Town, came online in 1984 and ’85. The nation is working on smaller-scale reactor design as much of energy-starved Africa looks toward a future with nuclear power.

Senegal became the latest African country to pledge to build a nuclear power plant by the end of this decade, and former colonial power France has already offered technical assistance. Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Uganda are also hoping to have plants online by the decade’s end in response to rising fuel costs and overtaxed electricity grids. And booming South Africa is looking to add to its nuclear capacity with at least six new plants by 2023.

Senegalese Energy Minister Samuel Sarr slipped off to a conference in Paris for an extraordinary announcement: His country is hoping to enrich uranium and build shimmering Homer Simpson-style cooling towers over a landscape where erratic power outages have long forced homes and businesses to rely on generators and candles.

Why It Matters

Africa needs more electricity in order to progress. Nuclear plants are costly to build, but are clean and relatively cheap to refuel. To guard against accident and terrorism, though, nukes require stable and capable governments, both of which are in short supply. Senegal is hoping to do it by 2020. And the former French colony has company.

Today, South Africa’s two nuclear power reactors stand alone on the continent, but by the end of the decade, that could very well change. Several less-developed African nations are speeding up plans to modernize their economies through heavy reliance on nuclear power.Beyond transformers and electrical grids, however, nuclear power requires the less-tangible infrastructure of workplace safety regulation, government oversight, anticorruption measures, stable governance, and antiterrorism controls – all things that many African nations are infamous for not having. “It is not a technical challenge,” says Igor Khripunov, associate director for the Center for International Trade and Security in Athens, Ga. “Building nuclear power is a nationwide challenge.”

Ten African countries pursuing nukes

In February, Nigerian authorities pursued talks with Iran for an exchange of nuclear know-how. The oil giant is joined by Uganda, which passed nuclear laws in 2008 and hopes to have a plant by 2020, and by Kenya, whose government is seeking $1 billion for its own plant. Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt have pledged to go nuclear by 2020 and are considered the likeliest to do so. Ghana’s cabinet had vowed to bring a plant on line by 2018, until the new government scrapped the plans. And Niger – the country whose bountiful uranium has powered the nuclear age abroad and funded civil war at home – was soliciting South African support for its own plant, before February’s coup spiked the idea.

The energy conundrum

For Africa, energy is not a problem easily solved. Much of the continent lacks the rail infrastructure or the regional integration to haul in coal, or the purchasing power to consistently provide fuel to oil- or natural-gas-fired power plants. But once a costly nuclear plant is built, the uranium costs are comparatively minor. Western groups often push Africa to move toward wind, solar, and hydro power, but Africa’s leaders are looking for significantly more firepower. “I think it’s immoral for certain first-world countries to propose wind and solar solutions to Africa as if they’re going to be industrially important,” says Kelvin Kemm, CEO of a South African energy consultancy. “Imagine losing 10 percent of your country’s power if it doesn’t rain. There’s no modern economy that can look toward developing on the basis of that.” Fission presents its own problems, however. For one, it would double the total wattage of a grid like Kenya’s – something the planning section of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) strongly warns against. It’s a fiscal challenge, too, incurring high credit costs, upfront financing, and steep maintenance costs.

‘An absolutely lunatic idea’

“It is an absolutely lunatic idea,” says a nuclear physicist and energy analyst for an international think tank, who asked not to be named because he didn’t want to be contacted about his comments. He calls Senegal’s nuclear power project a “prestige undertaking.” Nuclear braggadocio is off the menu at Senegal’s Energy Min­istry, where spokesman Malick Ndaw is quick to play down the endeavor. After all, Senegal is also building wind farms, solar plants, a hydropower dam, and two coal-fired plants. Mr. Ndaw says they’ll need them all – plus the nuclear plant – to prevent a lack of power from crippling the country’s development. “All of our industries are in an energy crunch, without exception,” he says – words that resonate with Bara Gueye, chief engineer for Senegal’s Ciments du Sahel. Like many African industrialists, the cement manufacturer has to provide his own electricity, which explains why, according to industry analysts, energy prices gobble up 15 to 20 percent of manufacturing costs, inviting cheaper imports.

The new nuclear market

France may help finance Senegal’s project. Europe’s storied nuclear state is “always available to help” a former colony, Ndaw says, though he won’t say how. South Korea is exporting more nuclear technology, as is Japan. Russian designs for offshore nuclear plants may prove compelling for African countries. So, too, may South Africa’s pebble bed reactors, small-scale nuclear plants still being developed. “Then, China looms large on the horizon,” adds Mr. Khripunov of the Center for International Trade and Security. With so many new players competing, analysts say Africa may become the growth market for nuclear power exporters – even if not by the deadline of Mr. Sarr, the Senegal energy minister. “Twenty years from now, many of these countries may be ready for it,” says Holger Rogner, head of the IAEA’s planning section. “But you have to start now to get there.”

Africa has around 18 percent of the world’s recoverable uranium, but technology and nuclear know-how are in shorter supply and countries including China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea have begun exporting nuclear technology there.  For now, Africa has the lowest per capita energy use of any continent and makes up only 3 percent of global energy consumption. But that is set to increase dramatically over the next decade, boosted by population growth and urbanization. Going nuclear would be beneficial for numerous African nations.  The benefits of nuclear energy would greatly enhance the continent.  The challenge of nuclear energy would be nuclear waste storage.  This would require sound infrastructure and good safety regulation. As the quoted article says, African nations would face a challenge in this regard.  None the less, nuclear energy has to be looked at since it has the biggest jolt to power the largest amount of people. A nuclear Africa might make some Western environmentalists (not to mention nonproliferation advocates) uncomfortable, but lighting up a dark continent is going to take more than good intentions.

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Power for Europe from Africa

Sketch of possible infrastructure for a sustainable supply of power to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EU-MENA) (Euro-Supergrid with a EU-MENA-Connection proposed by TREC)

The DESERTEC concept aims at promoting the generation of electricity in Northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe using Solar power plants, wind parks and the transmission of this electricity to the consumption centres, promoted by the non-profit DESERTEC Foundation. The concept has been talked about here.

Under the DESERTEC proposal, concentrating solar power systems, photovoltaic systems and wind parks would be spread over the desert regions in Northern Africa like the Sahara desert. Produced electricity would be transmitted to European and African countries by a super grid of high-voltage direct current cables. It would provide a considerable part of the

Extent of Sahara Desert ecoregion

electricity demand of the MENA countries and furthermore provide continental Europe with 15% of its electricity needs. By 2050, investments into solar plants and transmission lines would be total €400 billion. The exact plan, including technical and financial requirements, will be designed by 2012.

From vision to reality – by 2050 Europe is scheduled to get around 15 percent of its power supply from the Sahara and other desert regions. Aglaia Wieland is head strategist at the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii), and Paul von Son chief executive.  They are two of the key minds behind the implementation of the Desertec international energy project.The energy will be supplied by gigantic solar power generators and wind farms. Wieland and von Son are due to have a business plan completed by the end of this year.

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Renewable energy in South Africa: Staying cool with natural gas

When used as refrigerants, flourocarbons can cause severe damage to the Earth’s ozone layer. That’s why a South African supermarket chain is changing direction to use natural and eco-friendly refrigerant technologies and saving money and energy as a result.

Natural gas has numerous benefits compared to other types of renewable energy. Natural gas is an extremely important source of energy for reducing pollution and maintaining a clean and healthy environment. The use of natural gas also offers a number of environmental benefits over other sources of energy, particularly other fossil fuels.

  • It’s clean: Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels and is simply the best energy choice for the environment inside and outside your home.
  • It’s economical: Natural gas appliances are virtually maintenance-free and that means additional savings.
  • It’s efficient: When the entire cycle of producing, processing, transporting and using energy is considered, natural gas is delivered to you with a “total energy efficiency” of about 90%. Moreover, gas appliances and equipment are extremely efficient.
  • It’s multi-purpose: can heat your entire home, make your hot water, dry your clothes and help you cook your meals in the oven or on the barbecue grill. New residential uses range from fireplaces and air conditioners to microturbines and fuel cells.You never have to worry about weather, delivery schedules or running out.  It’s dependable.

Natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, and thus its many applications can serve to decrease harmful pollution levels from all sectors, particularly when used together with or replacing other fossil fuels.

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Group Five has announced plans for a solar plant in South Africa

Relying on dirty coal energy rather than renewable sources is anything but fashionable in 2011, not to mention the damage to the environment.  However, South African construction firm Group Five has announced plans to construct a solar plant to produce solar energy across the country.

South Africa’s fourth-largest construction firm, Group Five announced this week that it plans to build a R5bn solar power plant in the Northern Cape to supply power to Eskom within two years.

Physics professor at the University of Johannesburg Hartmut Winkler believes that Northern Cape is the most suitable province in the country for solar power stations.

“On average it enjoys more sunshine hours than other parts of the country, and is fairly cloud-free throughout the year,” he said. “Furthermore, the arid nature of much of the province means that land there is both cheaper and unsuitable for intensive agriculture.”

The country’s renewable energy strategy has set a target of 10 000 gigawatt hours of energy to come from renewable resources by the year 2013.

Professor Wikus van Niekerk of Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) believes the target is reasonable, citing the fact that it is only 4% of energy consumption in SA.

In addition, by 2012, SA could be generating 5 000 megawatts of power from another proposed R150bn solar park, announced last year.

“The reason [the target] will not be reached is because the government is tardy in implementing its own targets,” said Van Niekerk.

Group Five’s proposal could function in support of the 49Million (49M) initiative to reduce coal-generated electricity consumption, endorsed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe as “the biggest energy saving movement ever seen in this country”.

On the sidelines of an African refinery conference, Group Five’s director of engineering and construction, Greg Heale told Reuters that the group’s solar project would go ahead only if it was selected as part of Department of Energy’s renewable energy procurement process.

He also said that the company expected to conclude all contractual arrangements, including off- take agreements, within the next nine months.

Constructing large solar generating plants has a significant short term economic benefit in producing construction jobs, but once the plant is completed its employment advantage drops. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S. predicted that building a single 1,000 megawatt solar power plant in Nevada would generate over 2,000 jobs for three years as it was being built. After building, however, the job benefits dropped precipitously for the next four years, before slowly climbing to just over 200 new jobs. Given the high rate of unemployment in certain locations throughout South Africa, the benefit of short-medium term jobs is beneficial no matter what the long term trends might be.

Big solar power plants are only a small part of the story. Solar power is a distributed energy: it is available everywhere and can be easily harvested by placing small batteries of solar cells on large numbers of local buildings, saving land that would otherwise be needed to operate big solar plants. Locally installing solar cells creates jobs installing those cells on houses, businesses and other buildings, stimulating local economies. If solar cells were manufactured locally in small factories as the solar movement occurs, it would provide another boost to the economy in the form of manufacturing jobs

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Africa, key to world’s energy problems?

Africa could hold the key to solving the world’s looming energy crisis but unlocking the continent’s vast potential will not be easy.

As supplies of oil and gas from traditional sources diminish, international energy companies are pushing into increasingly volatile and environmentally-sensitive territory in their scramble to meet demand. Among the most controversial projects on the starting blocks for 2011 are a proposed $17 billion development of the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rainforest and the possibility of drilling in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge.

But it is in Africa that many believe the most potential lies for boosting energy supplies. Over the next two decades, 90% of new resource development in oil and gas will be in the developing world, and much of that in Africa. Industry experts are asking whether Africa’s transformation into an energy powerhouse could offer an answer to the energy conundrum – both as an oil producer and a testing ground for large-scale clean energy. But potential investors need also to be aware of the risks.

AfricaWindAfrica already accounts for 10% of the world’s oil supplies but a second generation of oil production has emerged in the last three years, most recently off Ghana’s coast. This has been spurred in part by rapid advances in drilling technology which have prized open new reserves. “Everyone knew the Guinea basin was a very rich deposit for hydrocarbons, but until recently all the attention focused on a small group of countries that were seen as worthwhile investments,” says Philippe de Pontet, an analyst at political risk consultant Eurasia Group. ” [But today] even countries that were totally off the radar are getting a fresh look.”

Compared to Middle East crude, African oil has many advantages. It is light and low in sulfur – a quality highly prized by refiners – it is located primarily offshore and favorable production sharing agreements are readily available. “With the decline in production [of this kind of oil] in Europe, there should be a constant demand for crude from Africa in the future,” says Olivier Jakob, an analyst at Petromatrix. While some of the biggest finds have been in Uganda and Ghana, Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, founder of risk consultant Da Mina Advisors, says that exploration off the shore of Kenya and in Tanzania and South Sudan is the most crucial for the Asian market, due to lower shipping costs. “There you have the real prospect that exploration . . . could rise dramatically.” However, concerns remain over the environmental impact of so many large-scale energy projects in developing countries. “There’s certainly more talk of environmental protection,” says Julian Lee, an analyst at the Center for Global Energy Studies. “It’s not clear whether this will translate into regulation on the ground, but it will become much more important. Companies have fewer places to hide these days and are closely scrutinized by NGOs, if not governments. There’s certainly a general movement not to repeat the experience in Nigeria.” Mr. Lee refers to insensitive oil exploration in Nigeria’s primary producing region, the Niger Delta, over the last five decades. Multinational oil companies have caused many forms of oil-generated pollution and some environmental groups estimate the region now experiences the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez oil spill every year.

AfricaGhana

Ghana’s President John Atta Mills turns on the valve to allow the first barrel of oil to flow from the country’s newly opened Jubilee offshore oil field in December.

Regulation is no silver bullet in Africa, but it is hoped it could help pen a new chapter for African oil. According to Mr. de Pontet, the Gulf of Mexico Spill acted as a wake-up call for governments in relation to the tourism, fishing and farming industries. “Even in Angola the [government] is looking to enforce tougher regulations for offshore drilling. The BP spill gave additional momentum,” he says.

Not only is Africa rich in natural gas and oil, but the continent also has plenty of sunshine, strong winds, countless powerful river systems and hydroelectric dams.

Africa’s electricity supply continues to depend heavily on carbon-based energy sources, but an increasing number of governments are looking at the potential of wind turbines, solar panels and other forms of cleaner energy. Opportunity for development in renewable energy in Africa is huge, with the potential to draw in foreign investment as well as funding from the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund to spearhead a green revolution. Energy experts believe renewable technologies could even allow poor communities without electricity to leapfrog the West’s high-carbon technology, in the same way mobile phones jumped over landline technology in many developing African countries. At the end of 2008, Africa’s installed wind power capacity was just 593 megawatts, but by the end of last year it was just under one gigawatt. (1000 megawatts). In South Africa and Kenya, with wind potential of up to 60,000 megawatts and 30,000 megawatts respectively, local projects are expected to boom. The carbon credit market may also prove a strong incentive for investment in other types of renewable energy. Kenya was the first African nation to build significant geothermal energy sources and is quickly expanding its supply, which now account for 10% to 15% of its energy mix. It plans to develop 10,000 megawatts from geothermal steam sources by 2030, shifting the East African nation’s electricity load from weather-dependent hydropower sources to renewable geothermal. It is also hoped that as technology improves and costs fall, solar power will also enter the African renewable energy mix.

Solar Sahara
A German-led consortium has already publicized plans to develop a €400 billion solar park in the Sahara Desert, a massive natural storehouse of solar energy. The Sahara Forest Project proposes building concentrated solar power plants which use mirrors to focus light on water pipes or boilers, generating superheated steam to operate conventional steam turbines.
AfricaSahara


The €400 billion plan to power Europe using thermo-solar cells in the Sahara desert takes shape. Critics have questioned the project’s viability and expense.

Scaling the technology to produce meaningful quantities of electricity is estimated to cost about $59 billion and to be operational by 2020. “Ultimately for Africa solar is the answer, although [costs mean] we may still be decades away,” says Hermann Oelsner, president of the African Wind Energy Association.

As with any investment in Africa, potential is never the problem. It is the time and cost of making such projects a reality that ultimately threatens even the most ambitious of investments.

Africa does hold great potential in energy especially in renewables like wind and solar. Various countries are trying to exploit the advantages that they have naturally. Namibia is going down the hydropower route and Egypt is building thermal power plants.  There is plenty that Africa can do to better the environment and help contribute to a better more sustainable future while at the same time benefiting economically. As the benefits both economically and environmentally become clear, expect an increase in interest and investment especially since Africa is the new frontier after years of rapid rise and investment in Asia.

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