Namibia moved closer to its goal of becoming self-sufficient in its power generation by 2016 with the switching on of the fourth turbine at the Ruacana Hydropower Station, which has an additional capacity of 92 megawatts.
Commissioning the new power-generating unit on Thursday, President Hifikepunye Pohamba said it is imperative for the country, currently a net importer of electricity, to harness its own resources in the generation of its own electricity.
The fourth unit, which was initiated in October 2007, cost a whopping N$750 million to install. NamPower financed the project with N$330 million, with the remaining amount capitalised through a concessional loan from the German development bank KfW.
The Ruacana power plant generates 50 per cent of Namibia’s power supply. It is operated as a base-load power station during rainy seasons and as a peaking plant during dry seasons.
The station, which was built 30 years ago, had been operating with three turbines until now, but its design made provision for a fourth turbine.
The turbine runners of the three old turbines were replaced at a cost of N$45 million, giving the station an additional 15 megawatts capacity, which brings the total generation capacity of the Ruacana plant up to 347 megawatts.
After the NamPower board of directors gave the go-ahead for the construction of the fourth turbine, the Norwegian engineering company Norplan was commissioned to run the project.
Other contractors working on the three-year project were Alstom and Andritz consortium, which did the turbine and generator installation, Murray & Roberts for the civil works, ABB for the installation of the 105 MVA generator step-up transformer, and Siemens, which supplied and installed the 330 kilowatts switch-gear extension.
Ten Namibian companies were also involved during the execution of the massive project.
The fourth unit consists of a rotor weighing 152 tons, 31 kilometres of cables, 4 885 cubic metres of concrete, 52 434 tons of reinforcement steel and 69 253 tons of structural steel.
The labour amounted to about half a million man-hours.
NamPower CEO Paulinus Shilamba said there were no disabling injuries and no fatalities during the construction period. There were also no legal interventions, claims or litigations.
Namibia is expecting a power supply deficit of 80 megawatts this winter.
Shilamba said this deficit is expected to grow to 250 megawatts next year and to 350 megawatts in 2015.
To address this shortage, the NamPower board of directors has approved a number of projects to be implemented under a short-term critical supply project.
These include the rehabilitation of the Van Eck Power Station in Windhoek that will extend the lifespan of the station by five years; the replacement of all four old machines at the Paratus Power Station at Walvis Bay with new ones at a cost of N$350 million; public awareness on energy saving; and the negotiation of new power purchase agreements and the renegotiation of existing ones with neighbouring power utilities.
Shilamba said these agreements are important considering the fact that Namibia still has to rely on energy imports for the next four to five years while the country is looking at the implementation of its own generation projects.
NamPower will also negotiate new power purchase agreements with independent power producers to boost solar and wind projects.
It is also looking at the installation of emergency diesel generators which are readily available on the international markets for lease. This process has already started and is expected to be completed by October with the commissioning of 70 megawatts of rented diesel generators at a cost of about N$250 million per year.
Other large-scale projects still in the pipeline are the Erongo coal-fired power station planned near Arandis, the ongoing Kudu power project, the envisaged Baynes hydropower project and the regional Zizabona project.
The Minister of Mines and Energy, Isak Katali, said more than ten companies have been issued with renewable energy production licences.
He said the Zizabona project is a US$225 million transmission line which extends from the Hwange substation to a switching station near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, into Livingstone in Zambia, and linking Botswana and Namibia.