Following last month’s commissioning of the 10-MW Kumbotso solar project in Kano State by President Mohammadu Buhari, experts have weighed in on how it could inspire other solar energy project developments in the nearest future.
According to Chibueze Ekeh, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CeeSolar, more solar farms are on the horizon in Nigeria from 2023 and beyond. Ekeh told Nairametrics that although the idea of solar farms is not yet entrenched in the industry’s lingua, there is no doubt that Nigeria now has an official solar farm in Kano state.
The norm in 2023 and beyond: Ekeh said that the development of more solar farms will become the norm in 2023 and beyond. He explained that factors such as rising diesel prices (N880 per litre in some locations in Abuja) and the impending fuel subsidy removal will all influence this.
He further noted that industrial clusters, businesses, and communities around the solar farms could benefit from the establishment of more solar farms in the country. He said:
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- “Nigerians will be more comfortable doing business without incurring a lot of energy costs when they are sure of a solar farm that can meet their energy needs to an extent, so they can reduce or put a stop to diesel reliance.”
Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer of Swift Tranzact, Chigozie Enemoh, agreed with this projection. He told Nairametrics that there are already signs of more solar projects springing up. He also attributed this to the rising cost of fossil energy and the impending removal of fuel subsidies in the country.
According to him, many small business owners will migrate from PMS and diesel generators to the more sustainable solar system.
Enemoh also mentioned the Energizing Agriculture programme where energy developers and contractors were funded by the govt to provide energy access for agricultural purposes. According to him, the programme will birth more solar farms in the future.
Adding households to solar farms: According to Ekeh, there are some conditions to be made before households can benefit from solar farms that have been set up around them. He highlighted the fact that developers are mostly concerned about the commercial viability of a mini-grid or solar farm project.
This is reflective of the fact that the developer is only looking out for those who can afford to pay for the power provided, apart from the dedicated off-taker. Although not the main purpose of setting up a solar farm or mini-grid, it is possible to provide 80% of power to the dedicated off-taker and have an anchor off-taker, benefit from the project as well.
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A general context: Solar farms are set up to place a large array of solar panels. However, some countries are beginning to put floating solar panels in oceans and seas and string them together to have solar farms. Meanwhile some countries in the Middle East, also utilize their desert areas to construct solar farms. However, there are also concepts where some countries have been able to utilize a large expanse of land on mountaintops as well.
Enemoh told Nairametrics that there are communities whereby solar mini-grids and solar farms occupy a large expanse of land that might be utilized for other case scenarios. For instance, some solar farms are retrofitted so the land can also be used for something else aside from hosting the solar farm, like elevating the solar farm and the soil is utilized for agricultural purposes, especially for crops that do not need direct sunlight to grow.
What you should know: During a conversation with Nairametrics, Enemoh noted that a solar farm can be referred to as a large body of solar photovoltaics (PVs), that are put together in a large array like 1 hectare of land being covered by solar panels specifically to generate power for usage. He said:
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- “Depending on the community usage, most of Nigeria’s mini-grids are between 20 kilowatts to 100 kilowatts and when you have an array of solar panels put together that will generate up to 20, 30 or up to 100 kilowatts, that is what you would refer to as a solar farm.”
Enemoh defined a solar farm as the stringing up of an array of a large expanse of solar panels in a particular location with the intent of generating power from those solar panels. He told Nairametrics that if the plan is to generate 100 kilowatts of solar energy from a solar farm, there is a possibility that it will utilize 8000 square meters of land or sea (floating solar farm).
According to Chibueze Ekeh, the CEO of CeeSolar, Nigeria has solar farms, but they may not be like the solar farms in other countries. He told Nairametrics that in Nigeria, we have our definition of a solar farm, however, there are a couple of examples of large-scale solar projects which could pass as solar farms.
He referenced the interconnected mini-grid accelerated scheme that is being supported by GIZ. He also mentioned solar farms which have been set up for some federal universities under the Energizing Education programme by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). Referencing the use of the $467 million 800 MW Al-Kharsaah solar farm in Doha, Qatar, to power some stadia during the 2022 World Cup, he said:
- “The solar projects under the Energizing Education initiative are also solar farms because they are meant to power specific places. A stadium is a captive customer just like a university.
The Nigerian context: We have so many off-grid communities and solar developers in Nigeria. According to Enemoh, those individual pockets of solar mini-grids across Nigeria can be referred to as solar farms because they occupy a large expanse of land.
The government has been very helpful in terms of development partners from the Ministry of Power, specifically the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and some other bodies like AllOn, USADF, and PowerAfrica, that fund some of these developers to deploy grids in multiple communities where energy access is a very big problem.
Enemoh also referred to the 10 megawatts Kumbotso solar farm in Kano state that was commissioned in January 2023 by President Muhammadu Buhari. According to him, the federal, state, and local govt came together to develop that solar farm which happens to be the largest single solar farm in Nigeria.
Chigozie Enemoh told Nairametrics that the economics of solar farms can be juxtaposed with the economics of solar mini-grids in Nigeria. Solar mini-grids are becoming popular in Nigeria because there are so many underserved/unserved communities that depend on off-grid power to run their daily lives. A typical mini-grid in Nigeria will have a large array of solar panels, inverters, and batteries. The inverters and batteries are placed in a powerhouse.
Some companies are already declaring profits, so, economically there is a lot of potential in the market and each mini-grid deployed, has a solar farm component.
An important clarification: A mini-grid can be a solar farm but a solar farm may not necessarily be a mini-grid, in the Nigerian context. The 10 MW Kumbotso solar project in Kano state, cannot be referred to as a mini-grid because mini-grid regulations in the country say that any project that is below 1 MW should be referred to as a mini-grid.