Renewable Energy is in the Power Mix for Africa

Renewable Energy is in the Power Mix for Africa

This spring I attended African Utility Week 2014 in South Africa. While there were many different conversations around topics such as renewable energy and energy distribution in the region, a key discussion point was the need for further education within the energy industry about new technologies. In particular, there is a need for greater understanding about the value that energy storage solutions can provide.

Energy storage is a new technology that offers great promise to help solve electrical infrastructure challenges in Africa. Conferences like African Utility Week, which is highly technical and provides learnings from other projects and regions of the globe, provide a great venue for education on this important new technology. But beyond that, the topic could actually be taught at the university level in order to explain the benefits of storage and the value it can bring to Africas communities and cities. Many people have the notion that energy storage is too expensive, but with proper understanding of the role it can play and the overall economics behind an energy storage solution, its much easier to see the business case for energy storage investments. In a place such as Africa in particular, where there is a need to get energy in remote areas, energy storage is a very worthwhile investment when compared to the expenditures needed to build a centralized, traditional power system infrastructure.

Toward this end, at S&C, we are currently exploring a project that looks to combine energy storage with photovoltaics in a region within South Africa. South Africa has already recognised the value of storage by awarding a storage project with concentrated solar power at a higher rate than photovoltaics. This project will be beneficial, and cost-effective due to its ability to supply at peak times in areas where there are winter peaks, and other seasonal changes, that affect electricity demand.

Another project is taking place in a Senegal village that has no electricity. 25 kw of PV panels with energy storage will be installed to keep the town supplied with electricity every day. The energy storage system will help meet demand when needed to supplement output from the solar PV panels. The energy storage system uses lithium-ion batteries, which are more tolerant of the hot temperatures than other battery types as well as being more cost-effective for this usage, increasing the life and value of the project.

There is still a large knowledge gap concerning energy storage in Africa. Efforts should be made to educate the younger generation of engineers on the benefits of implementing storage. Once this has been achieved, both security and supply issues will be less prevalent, and most importantly, access to safe and reliable electricity will be extended to millions of people in Africa.

Source: Grid Talk

SMART GRID Bulletin May 2017


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