Grid parity – what is it?

by Conrad Roedern

We live in times of falling prices for Solar Energy equipment – some 25% reduction for modules in the last 8 months – while prices of energy supply from traditional sources are almost constantly on the rise. It lies within the nature of finite energy sources that this trend must continue as long as there is the need for energy.

“Grid parity” will be achieved at the moment when locally produced Solar electricity becomes cheaper than it can be bought from the mains supplier. Grid parity will kick off a revolution in electricity supply and it first will be reached in sun-rich countries with high electricity prices. Namibia is a candidate to reach “grid parity” within the next five years. Then it makes financially sense to produce at least part of your required electricity right at the place of consumption, i. e. on the roof of your home, workshop, office or factory. The technology used would be a Photovoltaic Solar Grid-Infeed System. Such a system operates in parallel with the existing grid connection. It virtually uses the grid as a form of battery storage; when your house requires more energy than your roof-mounted system is able to deliver you would buy in the balance from the grid. But during sunny days, your day-time consumption would come from your own system, thus avoiding energy purchases which come more costly than locally produced electricity once grid parity is achieved. Thus typical day-time energy-suckers like air conditioners, pool pumps, lunch-time cooking and refrigerators would benefit from that arrangement.

Now let us make a calculation and, based on today’s figures, assuming that larger infeed systems can be installed at N$45 for each watt of generating capacity. In Namibia, each watt will generate 2 kWh of Solar electricity per year which amounts to 40 kWh during a project period of 20 years. Then from an investment of N$45 you can harvest energy at a cost of N$1.13 per kWh. For practical reasons one has to add interest and a bit of maintenance which would bring the price to N$2.00 per kWh generated.

So I prepared a little diagram showing what will happen if – from 2009 onwards – the kWh-cost from Solar infeed-systems will fall by 10% per year while the cost of pre-paid grid power to the customer will rise by 15% per year (above inflation, as announced by the Electricity Control Board). Grid parity – the crossing point of the two lines – would happen in 3 years time from now.
Even if the percentages may change in one or the other direction – one thing is for sure:

We’re getting there! Soon!



Renewable Energy – Indigenous Energy

by Conrad Roedern

The majority of African countries spend most of their income earned from export on fuel imports. Many among them spend more than that, i. e. these fuel imports are partly paid from development aid monies.
One must therefore ask if a country’s development based on finite fossil energy would be a sound foundation on which Africa’s visions can be achieved.

Time and again we must look at the trade-off between national energy autonomy versus larger regional power pools, the latter being based on costly power lines or other means of transport for energy. National energy autonomy based on a renewable energy scenario will assign funds for the development of rural areas and centres immediately. A power pool will require costly infrastructure before the first hut in a rural area is electrified. Power Pools technically allow the import and export between countries. In practise they create unhealthy dependencies. Everybody will import from the current cheapest exporter and neglect the development of own generating capacities. Namibia had to learn a lesson after the power purchase agreement with South Africa had to be re-negotiated and excess energy from this country ceased to be available. A forgotten bolt in a nuclear power station near Cape Town has strong repercussions for the availability of power in Namibia.

On the other side sun and wind can be regarded as Namibia’s indigenous energy. Our politicians talk so much about “value adding” when it comes to exporting products from Namibia and they rightly do so. But at times where we hit the three existential limits of the fossil based energy system – depletion of fuel, climate-incompatibility and rising violence for resource access – the added value from our own renewable energy sources is not adequately recognized. The following diagram puts it into perspective: all remaining finite resources are only a minute fraction of what the sun offers each year in a renewable way.

Energy Cube
The sun provides more than 10,000 times the energy needed by human race Almost all energy ultimately comes from the sun. Coal, oil, gas and peat are fossil fuels. These are remains of plants which captured energy from the sun. Mankind currently uses fossil fuels about 500,000 times faster than it took to accumulate them. Most fossil fuel is just burnt and releases CO2 The energy cube (large orange box) shows the amount of energy radiated to us by the sun each year.



Solar Energy and Land Reform

by Wiebke Volkmann and Conrad Roedern

Many families would love for their children to have the best of both worlds: knowing their rural roots, being in nature, possibly even finding work as farmers and producers of food as well as having access to quality education and other social services. With the cost of living and crime rising every day in cities and towns more and more people are dreaming of not only visiting their rural homes over weekends and annual holidays, but actually living there and making it a profitable business. Decentralized renewable electricity generation can make this possible and will become the only option as fuel prices are still on a steady rise.

While we cannot yet easily replace the fuel for our cars with renewable sources, farmers and tourism operators can convert their electricity generators and water pumps to using the energy of the sun. This is not only good for their bank accounts but also helps to keep rural productivity alive and to make living on the land a viable lifestyle. Imagine – with the expanded cell phone and internet coverage in the country and a well-designed Solar electricity system families could consider computer based distance education for their children and themselves. Even running a consulting business can then be done from a farm that is not connected to the national electricity grid.

Modern agriculture requires competent, motivated and diverse people with ambition. These people usually also desire a lifestyle that gives them the opportunity to be in touch with the world and with current information as well as having the comfort of refrigerators, entertainment and other electrical appliances.

Usually people move to towns for these amenities. The alternative is, to install off-grid electricity. Agriculture and other natural resource based enterprises are the backbone of our economy and the No One employer. Besides the advantages to individuals, families and communities the installation of independent Solar systems can contribute significantly to the national development of our country. Sun rays come for free to every homestead and they do not need to be imported for cash.

A striking calculation: A typical Diesel generator uses 0.3 l fuel per kWh. With the Diesel price standing at N$ 10.84 per litre that means a cost of N$ 3.25 per kWh for the fuel only. Transport of fuel, maintenance and replacement cost easily double this figure to approximately N$ 6.50 per kWh unit. A Solar kWh costs approximately N$ 5.00 to produce, taking into account the purchase and installation of the system, maintenance and replacement of batteries. Since transport-intense maintenance on Solar Systems is much lower these everincreasing expenses will also be contained much better.


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Local News

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Local News, REIAoN

South Africa launches hydrogen fuel cell power generator

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has officially launched the innovative 2,5 kW hydrogen fuel cell power generator prototype unit at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

The generator demonstrates South Africa’s innovative capabilities in the emerging hydrogen and fuel cell technologies space.

“This prototype was developed by the HySA Systems Integration and Technology Validation Centre of Competence (HySA Systems) in collaboration with Hot Platinum (Pty Ltd), a local company involved in power management and control electronics,” the department said on Tuesday.

The partners have been testing the unit at the Cape Flats Nature Reserve, on the UWC campus in Bellville, with remarkable results, the department said.

All electrical power used in the reserve is generated from a bank of hydrogen cylinders, instead of from the national grid.

The cylinders release hydrogen in the presence of a platinum catalyst (mined in the North West) and a series of proton exchange membranes.

Director-General of department, Dr Phil Mjwara, emphasised the critical role of science, technology and innovation in the development of the country.

“We talk a lot about adding value and reducing our carbon footprint, about access for all, creating wealth and developing private/public partnerships. This project shows that we are capable of all these things,” he said.

The hydrogen fuel cell power generator unit uses hydrogen to generate electrical power, with water vapour the only by-product, which means that electricity can be produced in an environmentally friendly way without pollution or noise.

Furthermore, hydrogen can be used to produce electricity in remote areas that do not have access to the national grid.

The decentralisation of energy generation by using hydrogen fuel cell systems is one of the few possibilities for providing efficient and cost-effective access to electricity.

Prof. Bruno Pollet, Director of HySA Systems, said: “The South African government has rolled out several energy and energy-efficiency programmes and initiatives, such as HySA, with an emphasis on alternative energy opportunities and off-grid renewable energy solutions.”

South Africa is one of the primary suppliers of platinum group metals to the world, but not much beneficiation is being done in the country.

However, the rise of hydrogen fuel cell technologies in various markets is about to change the global platinum landscape with the anticipated increase in platinum usage in this emerging market.

It is therefore safe to assume that if the technology gains market share in coming years, as is anticipated by manufacturers such as Toyota, Hyundai, Honda and BMW, the platinum group metal market will see profound and sustained growth.

Prof Pollet said there were significant opportunities for South Africa to partner with international fuel cell producers, and that these partnerships had the potential to make the country an established hub for the production of fuel cell components.

Regional News

Namibia Event: National Energy Forum

National Energy Forum:

The Struggle for Energy Independence and Full Energy Access by 2020

Date:                           Thursday, 13 November 2014

Venue:                        Hilton Hotel

Time:                          08:00- 17:00

Keynote Speaker:      Honorable Isak Katali, Minister of Mines and Energy

Featuring Panellist:   Hon. Sara Kuugongelwa Amadhila, Minister of Finance


Namibia finds herself in a challenging spot. The country is dependent on its good neighbors for its energy supply but the neighbors are themselves in a crisis. The solution needed should have been delivered yesterday, yet gauging from bush telegraphs, things are at standstill. Against this background, the NCCI is organizing a National Energy Forum with the aim to connect policy, technology, consumers and finance communities to find some pathway to achieving three competing objectives for energy production – energy security, environmental sustainability and increasing social and economically affordable energy access. While it is fair to assume every stakeholder is already doing their part to drive the energy agenda, the question is “What exactly is the holdup and what more can we do to strengthen energy financing and investment?” Not only more of the same but also new and innovative actions are required.

The forum is intended to take stock of the progress in advancing the energy security agenda; Highlight innovative approaches to packaging and scaling up energy initiatives; and facilitate knowledge-sharing on energy financing among stakeholders. It is thus collaborative, innovative and action-oriented. Sustainability is key to this agenda and NCCI is decided to establish an Energy Policy Working Committee to follow up on this topic as part of its Competitiveness  Agenda 2020. As a member you are welcome to be part of this Working Committee provided that you are able to contribute time and input into this task.

The forum aims to attract a diverse group of thought-provoking experts, including stakeholders from governments, project developers and service providers, energy regulators, academe, civil society, and development partners and other international organizations.

It is against the foregoing background that the NCCI invites members and related organizations to fully participate at this event. The Program will be circulated in due course. – Let us be on the move in Championing Agenda 2020.


EV “Charging Corridor” Links L.A. and San Francisco

Forget about California’s long-promised hydrogen highway. A solar power company has joined a regional bank to create an “electric highway” of quick-charge stations linking San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is believed to be the first network of its kind in the country, and electric vehicle advocates said it could spur the adoption of cars with cords in California.

SolarCity and Rabobank claim the 240-volt, 70-ampere stations unveiled today at five locations along Highway 101 provide the fastest recharge time available in a public setting, allowing EV drivers to charge up in one to three hours. The stations are located in retail areas, and Rabobank is letting people plug in and charge up at no cost.

“We hope that this corridor of charging stations provides new travel opportunities for electric vehicles and gives further momentum to the renewable fuels movement,” Marco Krapels, co-chair of Rabobank’s corporate social responsibility committee, said in a statement.

Although relatively small — there are just five stations so far — the “charging corridor” is significant because it is the first of its kind in the United States, if not the world, said Paul Scott, founder of the EV advocacy group Plug In America.

“I see it as a historic step forward,” Scott told “This is the first electric charging corridor, the first quick-charging station infrastructure between two major urban areas. People might look at it and say, ‘It’s no big deal, you’ve got to stay there three hours to charge.’ But you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Solar City and Rabobank are starting in three cities along Highway 101: Salinas, Atascadero, Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo. A fourth station, in a public parking garage, is run by the city of San Luis Obispo. A fifth, at a Rabobank branch in Goleta, goes online Oct. 15.

Each station uses the Tesla Motors high-power charger, so for the time being only those few people who own a Tesla Roadster can plug in. But SolarCity promises to retrofit the stations with universal plugs — known in the EV biz as SAE J1772 — once the standard has been adopted. That is expected in about six months, SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass told, and will ensure EVs of all kinds can plug in.

“The goal is to make these charging stations accessible to any electric vehicle,” he said. “We will do that.”

The 240-volt, 70-ampere charging stations can charge the Roadster’s 53 kilowatt-hour battery pack in 3.5 hours. Cars with smaller packs, like the Mini-E and forthcoming Nissan Leaf, will charge up in less than two, and the owner of a Chevrolet Volt will be able to fill the car’s 16 kilowatt-hour battery in a little more than an hour. The idea is drivers will plug in, grab a bite to eat and come back when the battery is charged.

Bass said each station costs $7,000 to $12,000 to install. Tesla provided the charging stations with help from a California Air Resources Board grant. Most of the charging stations draw power from the grid, but the station in Santa Maria gets its juice from a 30-kilowatt solar array. Bass said SolarCity and Rabobank are working on a deal to bring solar power to each of the four sites on Rabobank property.

“This charging station corridor demonstrates an important component of SolarCity’s vision for a carbon-free lifestyle,” company CEO Lyndon Rive said in a statement. “We’re combining clean, renewable solar power with all-electric transportation, allowing drivers to travel through California with zero emissions.”

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Global News

America’s K-12 schools are among the fastest adopters of solar power

U.S. schools quickly climbing learning curve in solar power

America’s K-12 schools are among the fastest adopters of solar power in the United States, with an estimated 3,000 new solar installations coming online between 2008 and 2012, a fivefold increase, according to a new study from the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The output from today’s 3,752 solar-equipped schools is on the order of 490 megawatts, enough to power tens of thousands of classrooms while offsetting nearly 443,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to the solar organizations, whose findings were published yesterday in a nationwide survey.

Moreover, the findings suggest that schools and school systems have shaved millions of dollars from their utility bills by installing solar panels, allowing for greater investment in textbooks, teachers and educational programs.

“It’s a trifecta for schools,” Andrea Luecke, the Solar Foundation’s president and executive director, said in a telephone interview. “On the one hand, these systems are allowing schools to save millions of dollars every year. But they’re also enriching students through interactive learning, and they’re providing a big environmental benefit by providing clean energy.”

Early adopters of school-based solar systems were drawn initially to the educational or even symbolic value of mostly small systems, but today schools are tapping solar at a much larger scale. They are relying on photovoltaic panels to meet significant amounts of their electricity needs.

In California, for example, 963 schools are producing 217 MW using solar panels, according to the analysis, roughly the amount generated by a utility-scale power plant. New Jersey and Arizona follow in terms of total solar generation from school sites, with 91.4 MW and 66.2 MW, respectively, according to the report.

The East Coast, however, claims the largest school-based solar arrays, and six of the top 10 largest arrays serve schools or school districts in New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York.

A solar farm feeds a Mass. school (and its budget)

The Lawrenceville School outside Trenton, N.J., hosts the largest array, a 6.1 MW system occupying a 30-acre site on the campus of the 800-student private high school. The solar panels produce 90 percent of the school’s electricity needs, and during peak generation excess power is sold to Public Service Electric & Gas under a net-metering arrangement.

Lisa Gillard, a spokeswoman for the school, said in an email that “the solar farm is much more than a collection of solar panels.” In addition to providing clean energy to the school, “the facility also serves as unique, hands-on living laboratory and case study for our science and mathematics classes.” The site also hosts a wildflower garden that attracts bees, which in turn pollinate fruits and vegetables at the school’s traditional farm.

The public school system in Plymouth, Mass., meanwhile, claims the country’s second-largest school-based array, at 5.57 MW of capacity. Power from the system, built by Borrego Solar of San Diego, is estimated to meet 60 percent of the 8,000-student school system’s energy needs and generate $500,000 in annual energy bill savings. A second solar site being developed by Borrego should boost the Plymouth school system’s solar output to 8 MW, according to school officials.

Solar’s success in schools, according to the analysis, can be attributed to a combination of factors. These include an abundance of solar-ready rooftop space on school buildings nationwide, rising awareness about the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy, and the proliferation of third-party financing programs that allow schools and school districts to construct solar arrays with little or no upfront costs.

Budget-strapped schools also have a powerful incentive to cut energy costs wherever possible, Luecke said, and much of that savings can be converted into investment in other projects and programs that directly benefit student learning.

“Schools tend to be big energy consumers, especially during warm periods when air conditioners are running during peak school hours,” she noted. Demand is also driven by overhead lighting, personal computers and other electrical equipment necessary to keep school buildings and classrooms functioning.

As with residential and commercial solar adopters, schools are also finding solar systems more attractive as installation costs decline. According to the latest market report from SEIA and partner GTM Research, national blended average system prices dropped 53 percent between 2010 and the second quarter of 2014.

The newer math

In fact, the Solar Foundation analysis found that 450 school districts nationwide could each save more than $1 million over 30 years by installing a solar system, and some districts could see energy savings reach into the tens of millions of dollars.

“That’s a lot of money,” Rhone Resch, SEIA’s president and CEO, said of the findings. “In a time of tight budgets and rising costs, solar can be the difference between hiring new teachers — or laying them off.”

Despite the significant benefits provided by school-based solar systems, the Solar Foundation notes that far more schools could be tapping the sun’s energy. In fact, the analysis states that between 40 and 60 percent of the nation’s roughly 125,000 schools could go solar cost-effectively.

Luecke said that further expanding the solar portfolio of U.S. schools depends on continued efforts to educate school districts and local elected officials about the benefits of going solar, including the economic benefits of third-party ownership. “Most of these systems were installed because there was a local champion who said, ‘Let’s do this,'” she said.

One of those champions is the Chicago-based Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, which has promoted and financed the installation of hundreds of small-scale solar systems at K-12 schools throughout Illinois. As a result, Illinois now ranks third in the nation for school-based solar systems, ahead of Arizona, Massachusetts and Florida.

Luecke also credited nonprofit groups such as the National Solar Schools Consortium, which aims to have 20,000 solar systems installed at K-12 and postsecondary schools by 2020. Such organizations, she said, are essential to “keeping the narrative going” about solar before administrators and school boards nationwide.

Global News

2nd “Energy Festival” in Katatura, Windhoek

Flyer Energy Festival