Study of major on-grid solar energy initiatives in Zambia.

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Walusa, Francis
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The University of Zambia
Climate change has greatly affected Zambia’s hydropower production. This has contributed to reduced amounts of electricity being injected into the utility grid. Zambia has therefore embarked on igniting different solar energy initiatives. However, no critical study has been done to document the technical details and social, economic and environmental implications to provide strengths and weaknesses, lessons learnt and best practices of the existing on-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for future solar energy entrepreneurs. This dissertation provides a study of the Bangweulu, CEC and Ngonye solar PV power plants in Zambia. National Renewable Energy policies and institutional framework together with information and data from the two solar power plants were used in the study of their technical performance, financial viability, strengths and weaknesses from which lessons learnt and best practices were drawn. Technical performances of the existing solar PV power plants were evaluated using PVsyst and financial viability by using RETScreen RE softwares. Data from Maamba coal power plant was used as a benchmark for financial viability. Performance ratios (PR) for Ngonye, CEC and Bangweulu solar power plants were found to be 83%, 86% and 84%, respectively which are above the internationally acceptable value of 75%. The yearly average daily peak sun hours for the three solar PV power plants were found to be 5.29 (5 hours 17 minutes). The Capacity Utilisation Factor (CUF), were found to be 18.8%, 16.6% and 19.8% respectively. According to Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO), the Zambian utility grid can absorb an additional 816 MW of solar PV power translating into an annual energy production of 1.61×106 MWh. When compared with same amount of coal generated power as the benchmark, solar energy initiatives give rise to an aggregated cost saving of US$2.86 billion over a period of 25 years. Computations from actual and simulated values produced grid parities of 11.3 years and 11.6 years for Ngonye and Bangweulu solar PV power plants respectively. Additionally, the environment would be saved from being polluted by about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) per year as compared to coal power production from Maamba coal plant. This shows that solar PV technology is the cheapest source of energy, environmentally friendly and financially viable to the government.
Master of Science in Physics
Energy efficiency. , Energy policy. , Climate change. , Biodiversity.