Rwanda fires up Africa's 'biggest' solar plant
250kW facility helps keeps the lights on
Rwanda yesterday unveiled a 250-kilowatt solar plant which ups the nation's 'leccy-producing capacity to 50 megawatts, Reuters reports.
The German-backed project, said to be the largest in Africa, makes a modest contribution to the 100 megawatts the country needs "to meet soaring demand that has triggered regular blackouts". Rwanda's hydroelectric plants have struggled to cope, and many businesses get their juice from diesel generators.
Energy State Minister Albert Butare declared the solar plant "reliable and very cheap to maintain", adding: "This new installation does not only increase the generation capacity but is also one of the cleanest energy sources. It is the biggest such project in Africa. There is no comparison on record."
Rwanda's energy strategy includes rolling out more solar energy in remote rural areas, and using large methane deposits under Lake Kivu to turn on the lights. A gas-driven four megawatt pilot plant is nearly ready to roll, to be followed by a 25-megawatt facility. Some experts reckon the lake's reserves might one day provide 700 megawatts, Reuters notes. ®
How clean is clean?
"This new installation does not only increase the generation capacity but is also one of the cleanest energy sources."
Looking at a picture of one of these installations, they certainly look clean, but are they really? The panels have to be replaced after some years and they certainly must have cost some "carbon dollars" to produce. The storage batteries are also a definate area of concern. From what I see advertised, the batteries used currently seem to need replacement every few (10-15) years. Now that does not seem "clean" to me.
Photovoltaic plants are generally advertised as producing power at almost eight times the cost that I pay here. That makes me wonder if those costs don't represent some unclean processes.
But are they dumping the nuclear waste !
Power on demand
When an engineer talks about a power plant producing 10 MW of power it is power on demand at any time of the day or night. If Solar Power plants are to compete fairly, you should include the inefficiencies of storing power.
However, if 90% of the power generation is non-solar, and the solar helps at peak times (to run air conditioning for example), it can be useful.
Warm regards, Rick