afrol News, 17 May - Specialists in renewable energies claim to document that Senegal's plans to develop nuclear power plants are an "extravagancy" for the poor country, where conditions would be perfect for a quicker and cheaper production of solar energy.
In an analysis made for afrol News by the Senegal office of the Spanish company Prosolia, different cost-efficiency alternatives are calculated to meet Senegal's desperate and immediate need to expand and diversify its energy production. The analysis follows Senegalese government initiatives to study the feasibility of nuclear power plants in the country.
According to Prosolia, conditions in sun-rich Senegal are close to perfect for a cost-effective large-scale development of solar energy. With prices for photovoltaic technologies steadily improving and becoming cheaper, solar energy by now is among the most competitive alternatives in Senegal, the analysis concludes.
Newest photovoltaic technologies are relatively cheap to buy and install compared with many other electricity plants. Given an expected life expectancy of 30 years for the solar panels and Senegal's many hours of peak sun radiance, Prosolia calculates that the production price of solar energy in the country will be at euro 0.055 per kWh. This includes maintenance, financial costs and security.
According to Prosolia's Sergi Belda, such a production price would mean a price of euro 0.08 per kWh for Senegalese consumers, including "an acceptable commercial margin" for electricity companies. Solar energy thus is competitive on the Senegalese market, Mr Belda told afrol News.
The Spanish company, on the other hand, lashes out against Senegalese government plans to invest in nuclear energy.
José Luis Martínez Rivero of Prosolia's Dakar office has just concluded a year-long thorough market study of the Senegalese energy market. "Prosolia Senegal can confirm that it is cheaper to generate electric energy from photovoltaic solar energy than from diesel and other systems currently applied in Senegal, including the extravagant nuclear initiatives," Mr Martínez concludes.
While solar energy production costs stand at euro 0.055 per kWh, electricity production from natural gas would cost euro 0.068 per kWh and from coal euro 0.071 per kWh. Only hydroelectric power production would be cheaper, costing around euro 0.039 per kWh.
Regarding nuclear power in Senegal, Prosolia's analysis concludes that an expected production cost of euro 0.044 per kWh is a very incomplete and risky calculation. The sum does not include extensive safety measures needed for nuclear power generation and the incalculable costs regarding the storage of nuclear waste. Nuclear waste must be stored safely for thousands of years.
Mr Martínez adds that the calculations regarding nuclear and fossil fuels are based on conservative estimates for world market prices of these fuel resources, which Senegal would have to import. But world market prices for uranium and fossil fuels are constantly changing, are unpredictable and could multiply.
Other advantages with solar energy, according to the involved company, would be the possible gradual investment and development of the new power generation and a decentralised structure of production. Solar energy thus easily could be put on the needy Senegalese grid to provide cities that already experience regular outages, but plants in more remote areas could also more easily electrify rural Senegal, where needs are large.
As in most countries, the will to consider renewable energies is apparently large in Senegal. Only this month, the big ENERBATIN 2010 renewable energy fair was organised in Dakar with political participation and speeches. But also in Senegal, real investments in renewable energies are low, with the exception of hydroelectric power, and fossil fuels still dominate.
"Senegal, like other countries, quickly needs to generate more electricity to address its necessary economic growth," Mr Martínez emphasises. Prosolia claims its analysis shows solar energy is the most viable way. "There now are no more excuses to use renewable, especially solar, energy in Africa to generate electricity," Mr Martínez says.
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