by Conrad Roedern
Namibia puts effort and money into exploring the nuclear power route. What happened in Japan was to happen only once in 100000 years. But it happened twice in 25 years! The catastrophe of Fukushima adds weight to those who criticize nuclear power for being “not safe, not cheap and not abundant”.
A number of countries, including France, the USA and China are pausing for a moment in order to re-evaluate their nuclear programs as well as the existing safety measures for their reactors.
Namibia can fulfill all its energy needs by harvesting indigenous renewable energy (RE). Let us make a feasibility calculation in this respect: the yearly energy requirements of Namibia in terms of electricity (3.6 terawatt hours or TWh) and all other imported fuels amount to some 12 TWh equivalent.
If we wanted to harvest 12 TWh by means of Solar Photovoltaic ( PV) cells of 15% efficiency we would require an area of 6600 hectare (ha), assuming that 1 kWp of PV generation power requires 11m2 and produces 2000kWh pear year.
6600 ha is the area of a small to medium sized farm. The square (8.1 km times 8.1 km) in the picture shows how much it would take of our Namib Desert. In reality most of this area will be distributed as small squares all over the country.
By the way: 12 TWh of green PV electricity have been produced in Germany during 2010. And had these PV systems been standing in Namibia, they would have produced 24 TWh, which is more than 6 times Namibia’s yearly electricity requirement.
I want to underline with these calculations the realistic possibility to completely power Namibia by means of renewable energy. Obviously I would not necessarily advocate a monoculture of PV cells since we also have wind, hydro, biomass and wave energy.
And the finances? Since RE comes as a modular low-risk technology, it is much more liked by investors and bankers. If financing cost, completion time and insurance is to be included, RE comes often cheaper than the traditional technologies based on finite fuels. Very low running cost and a multitude of societal advantages make decentralized RE generation the choice for coming projects. Nuclear power is only feasible if it is supported by government money. With the Olkiluoto 3 reactor, Finland tries to complete a nuclear power station. What was meant to be a show case of modern nuclear technology developed into a disaster due to extreme overrun in cost and time. The tax payer will have to foot the bill.
So my option for Namibia is clear: let’s go for our indigenous renewable sources as soon as possible (a.s.a.p.). These can be harnessed with infrastructure supplied and installed by Namibian companies. Yes, there are some challenges to overcome in respect of storage. But they appear minute to me if compared with those unsolved problems and pending risks of nuclear power.
I hope that my view has opened the floor for a lively public debate.