HomeBusinessThe potential of renewable generation in Zim

The potential of renewable generation in Zim

BY GET,Invest

Zimbabwe has strong potential for electricity generation from hydro, solar and biomass resources. So far, only a fraction of the country’s hydro energy potential has been exploited. Solar and biomass resources also remain largely untapped. Wind and geothermal energy are believed to have less potential in Zimbabwe than in other countries in the region and projects are thus less feasible.

Solar potential
The average solar irradiation is 5.7kWh/m2/day with the north and west regions of the country having the highest irradiation potential. Solar PV has a technical potential of over 300 megawatts (MW). While installed solar power capacity is mainly situated in rural areas and particularly within social institutions, the private, individual home market is growing. A number of small and medium-sized companies that focus on the installation of PV and solar water heaters are emerging. The government will promote the use of solar water geysers that are intended to replace conventional ones. Solar-powered “base stations” for charging electrical appliances have also been installed, mainly through the national telecommunications company.

Wind potential
Average wind speeds are estimated at 3.5 m/s. The ministry sees potential in the exploitation of these slow wind speeds for water pumping. The NGO ZERO, a regional environmental initiative, has conducted feasibility studies and financed the production of 1 and 4kW wind turbines for off-grid purposes, as well as providing power to municipal buildings such as clinics. Areas around Bulawayo and the Eastern Highlands could have potential for larger power generation, since the most prevalent wind speeds range from 4 to 6m/s.

Hydro potential
The gross theoretical hydropower potential is 18 500 GWh/year. The technically feasible potential is 17 500 GWh/year, of which 19% has been exploited. Rusitu Hydro, a mini hydro plant (750kW), is one plant constructed and operated by private entrepreneurs. Around eight other small-hydro plants, ranging from 3 kW to over 700kW, have been installed in the country. Four plants with a total capacity of 21MW have been commissioned between 2010 and 2014, operating as Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The total small-hydro potential is estimated at 120MW with Gairezi in Nyange district being particularly promising.

Bioenergy potential
Co-generation potential (bagasse) currently provides 633 GWh of electricity. The primary source of power generation is obtained from the waste materials of sugarcane production. Two sugarcane-crushing mills process more than 1.3 million tonnes of bagasse to generate electricity used by the sugar factories. The timber industry also has strong biomass potential, generating over 70 000 tonnes of waste for biomass annually. Long-term projections anticipate this figure to double. At the larger mills approximately 10% of the wood waste is consumed in process steam boilers for lumber drying kilns. The vast majority of the industry’s waste is burned outdoors or discarded. An estimated 4MW of additional energy could be created through enhancing equipment at these facilities.

More than 200 biogas plants have been installed around Zimbabwe, primarily by the Ministry of Energy. The vast livestock population offers high potential for biogas generation. The country’s first utility-scale biogas power plant (800 kW) is currently at the planning stage.

Geothermal potential
50MW of geothermal potential were identified in 1985, but little has been done since to further catalogue the resource. It is reasonable to assume from the country’s geographic location near to the geologically-active Rift Valley indicates that geothermal power may be a viable generation option. — www.get-invest.eu

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