ARTICLE:: FEASIBLE SOLAR TECHNOLOGY USE IN NIGERIABy Musbaudeen Bamgbopa
Published on 8 July 2014
Apparently, the influence of solar energy in agriculture and food industry cannot be over-emphasized in the sub Saharan Africa context. Using Nigeria as a case study, this is evident in a number of local dishes made from sun dried cassava, fish etc. and other sun dried food items (for preservation).
With time, the venture was facilitated by local designs and deployment of solar powered food processing equipment. It is expected that similar initiatives be seized, applying modern innovation to satisfy present domestic, commercial and industrial energy needs from solar energy; a free, inexhaustible, renewable source of energy. By virtue of its location, Nigeria receives an average solar irradiation of 3.7–7 kWh/m2/day of solar energy, slightly higher than most parts of Eastern Europe. Given this solar energy resource in the light of its contemporary socio-economic climate, advancement in solar photovoltaic (PV) technology applications at the least befitting.
It is acknowledged that rural electrification through PV technologies are recently being promoted and tested in various parts of the country. However, there is still much to be done to ensure extensive utilization. It is evident that the off grid format of distributed PV technologies presents a viable option compared to grid expansion to rural areas, which can be as remote as Niger delta riverine communities. Based on earlier reports, the power requirement in such villages, even with access to grid power is about 2.32 kWh/household/day, while it is as low as 1.58 kWh/household/day in villages with no grid access. These are comparably unsubstantial energy requirements which cannot justify the costly and convoluted grid expansion process. Furthermore, as the Ministry of Power is looking to bridge the wide gap between electricity supply and demand, increment of the quota of ‘renewables’ through PV distributed rural electrification will provide the needed boost and also help offset carbon emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power generation. With this in place, availability of power would be increased on the grassroots level, ultimately improving the standard of living.
In a global perspective, of the 1962 KWh/m2 solar irradiation Nigeria receives yearly, a simple calculation can be done to roughly quantify the PV potential in Nigeria. Based on PV systems of 10% overall efficiency, to satisfy Nigeria’s electric consumption of about 19 billion kWh/year, roughly 100 square kilometers of PV collector area is needed. Area the size of about 9000 standard football fields or around 0.2% the area of Borno state (North-East Nigeria).
Unsurprisingly, Nigerian residences and businesses still largely depend on personal generators running on petrol or diesel to meet their electricity demands due to the epileptic grid power supply in the country. Greenhouse gas and noise emissions from these systems are highly unsustainable for the environment. A closer look further indicates that the cost of electricity generation from this option is more expensive than deployed PV systems in the long run. Also, the current electricity crisis in the country has spurred installation of battery bank – inverter systems in some urban residences to store energy when the grid electricity is available. Upgrading such existing infrastructures with PV panels is economically viable, as it breeds a more reliable hybrid system.
Distributed solar PV technology is a promising venture. However, In the Nigerian environment, due to high capital costs, the feasibility of its widespread use in the country is highly dependent on implementation of supporting policies. This is the approach adopted in some European countries like Germany, where enabling policies were used to ramp up the solar portfolio from 114 MW in year 2000, when the German Renewable Energy Act was enacted to about 35 GW in 2013. Some main areas such policies addressed were; direct government investment into centralized systems while simultaneously promoting small scale distributed generation. Public relation campaigns aimed at promoting the use of PV technology. Complementary rebate programs, subsidy, and electricity ‘sell back to the grid’ programs. To enhance the robustness of such policies, regulations to compel different businesses to adopt solar energy technology may be involved. For example, fast food outlets and other commercial entities with process heating requirements to install solar water heaters and telecommunication base stations to be powered with solar PV.
Undoubtedly, a combined ‘techno-econo-political’ analysis is encouraged to establish a more catholic feasibility outlook of solar energy technology in Nigeria. The approach is applicable and recommended for other emerging technologies in Nigeria, since technical analysis is often inadequate by itself.