Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 09 November 2010
Namibia’s national power utility says plans are moving ahead to construct a series of hydro-electric power stations along the Lower Orange River.
NamPower Managing Director Paulinus Shilamba told IPS that they are now finalising a study on the project with a South African company, Clarkson Power, with whom they signed a memorandum of understanding with last year.
The Lower Orange Hydroelectrical Power Scheme will include up to nine run-of-the-river generating stations on a stretch of the river with the potential to generate between 90 and 120 megawatts of power. Shilamba said Nampower expects to generate 45 megawatts from the first two installations.
“We are going to develop the power generating project in two phases, with the first two sites to be developed by 2013,” he said.
Reporting on the utility’s call for tenders, online publication Engineering News said the scheme calls for water to be diverted through 70 kilometres of underground tunnels and five km of canals to drive turbines and produce electricity.
Shilamba said Namibia presently needs up to 477 MW of power at peak periods. Presently half of the country’s power is imported from its neighbours.
“We need additional power which will benefit Namibia, because our country’s economy continues to grow with new mines being opened that require lots of electricity hence we have to add to our capacity,” he told IPS.
The Nampower MD also told IPS that although the Orange River project would be capital intensive, it would be worth it in the long run.
“The Orange River [project] is a huge investment and within 20-30 years it should start paying off. It’s better to invest in a power station because in the long run the expenses are minimal. Currently we are spending millions and millions annually importing electricity.
“In Ruacana, we are only now paying for maintenance, repair and water royalties which are not expensive at all.”
Lenka Thamae, the executive secretary of the Orange-Senqu Commission, told IPS that NamPower’s project was not expected to have any negative effects on the river. The other countries that share the transboundary river, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa, have all been consulted over the planned development.
Thamae said that changes in upstream use of the water should not threaten the generating potential in the new generating stations.
“A lot of water and flow depends on the release from dams upstream. Usually when we have projects downstream that include power generation, we ensure that upstream agencies work closely with institutions downstream. The presence of dams up stream actually provides more water than when nothing is there because these dams collect water. This regulated system is much better,” he said.
“There can only be problems if the water is used for irrigation but this is not the case, most rivers upstream are used for power generation.”
Regarding possible changes in water availability due to global warming, Thamae said ORASECOM has engaged specialists to study the likely scenarios.
“We want to find out how climate change will affect the river, which areas will get more or less rainfall before we advise our member countries. We are really concerned because the river is used for industry, with water being scarce sometimes.”