Energy efficiency and alternative power sources will be under discussion at the Sandton Convention Centre in January when Siyenza Management hosts the Energy Solutions for Africa Conference and Exhibition.
Slated for 28 and 29 January, the conference will aim to showcase opportunities for and highlight the potential of renewable energy.
“Due to the fact that the continent has become a gold mine for renewable energy owing to the abundant solar, water and wind resources available, it is evident that this alternative may be a solution that could increase energy capacity and reduce energy shortages across the continent, says Siyenza Management Managing Director Liz Hart.
She notes Africa “has tremendous potential with many renewable energy resources available”. Its long coastline makes it an ideal designation for wave
and wind power. Opportunity also abounds for geothermal
power generation along the Rift Valley.
“Investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency is important as this initiative will reduce the negative economic, social and environmental impacts of energy production and consumption in Africa,” Hart adds.
Efforts underway in SA include the construction of a 100MW Eskom wind farm near Koekenaap near Vredendal in the northern Western Cape. Reports suggest its capacity could later be doubled. Plans before the National Energy Regulator show the farm should be operational in early 2010.
Eskom has already signed a 20 year, €100-million financing framework-agreement for the farm with the French state Agence Française de Dèveloppement for the partial financing of the project.
The Koekenaap enterprise will be SA`s second wind farm. The first a R75 million public private partnership at Darling, closer to Cape Town, started generating power in July. Owned by the Department of Minerals and Energy`s Central Energy Fund (49%), the Darling Independent Power Producing Company (26%) and black economic empowerment interests (25%) the farm is rated with a capacity to generate 13.2GW hours of power a year using four Siemens 1.3-MW wind turbines. The Koekenaap endeavour will have up to 50 turbines.
The Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Danish international development agency provided some of the funding.
The paper reports Eskom is meanwhile building its own multi-million rand solar plant near Upington in the Northern Cape. “Recent reports say Eskom decided to use concentrated solar power (CSP) at its plant after researching various technologies. This employs an array of mirrors controlled by tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a concentrated beam directed at a single surface to heat water or other liquids, such as molten sulphur, which in turn are used to heat water to produce steam, and that drives turbines, to produce electricity,” the paper says.
“There are numerous untested solar technologies out there. However, their feasibility remains unknown until developed to a reasonable scale,” Eskom spokesman Sipho Neke told the paper at the time. CSP also has the backing of the World Bank, which views it as the only zero-emission technology that could potentially rival coal-fired power.
The single biggest cost for solar cell makers is the high price of raw polysilicon, which costs US$300/kg and makes up 70% of the structure. However, the price of raw silicon is expected to fall by two thirds over the next three years. So, the race is now on to find the best solar technology, and the company which perfects it is likely to make a killing.
Nanosolar, a US-German company, says it has developed a “thin film” technology solar panel that can be sold at a profit at US$0.99 per watt, said to be comparable to the price of electricity generated from coal.
The company will then aim to build solar power stations up to 10MW in size in as little as six to nine months compared with 10 years or more for coal-powered stations and 15 years for nuclear plants.
University of Johannesburg physics Professor Vivian Alberts` “thin film” contender, also ready for commercial use, costs about R14 per watt (US$1.3). Albert`s patent is currently being industrialised in Germany. A factory to produce it is being built in Paarl, near Cape Town.