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Zimbabwe: Use of solar energy urged

Zimbabwe can immensely benefit from the use of solar energy as a viable source of power in view of the current electricity shortages, the Minister of Energy and Power Development Retired Lieutenant General Michael Nyambuya has said.
Speaking at the commissioning of the Zimbabwe-China solar water heater project at ZRP Msasa Camp in Harare yesterday, Cde Nyambuya said the use of solar water heaters results in reduced dependence on imported electricity and significant savings could be made on foreign currency.
"Savings in electricity can create virtual power stations with the saved electricity being made available to other productive sectors and also deferring the need to build new power stations.
"For example, studies have shown that water heaters in residential, health and tourism sectors consume 300 megawatts of electricity annually. Saving this amount of electricity is equivalent to a virtual power station of 300 megawatts," he said.
There are plans to expand the solar project into farming areas where resettled people need electricity.
Cde Nyambuya said energy scarcity has had adverse impact on the functioning of the economy, especially on productive sector.
He said solar water heating contributes towards the reduction of electricity demand, energy expenditure and improves general societal welfare.
He said solar water heaters could therefore make a difference in energy supply at national level.
The minister said his ministry had also undertaken a number of projects to develop and promote increased use of new and renewable sources of energy.

To date 400 biogas digesters for demonstration purposes had been set-up throughout the country.
"The gas from the digesters is used for lighting and cooking in households and rural institutions. Having a solar home system and a biogas digester at a rural household is a complete package whereby the user can cook, light, watch TV and listen to the radio, making it no different from anyone living in a modern urban suburb," he said.
As part of its drive to promote the use of renewable forms of energy and reduce the amount of imported fuels, Cde Nyambuya said his ministry was spearheading the National Biodiesel Feedstock production programme using jatropha curcas seed.
"The main aim is to substitute at least 10 percent daily consumption of imported fuel through bio-fuels within the next five years," he said.
He said to complement power from the national grid by small hydro power, his ministry was drawing up a master plan of small hydro power plants in order to increase local power generation.
At least 150 police houses at Msasa Camp have had the solar water heaters with a total value of US$180 000 provided by China installed.
Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Zhang Xianyi said the solar industry in China started far back.
"After accumulating experiences and technologies in solar industry, China is willing to share the technological achievements with our friends and will promote its cooperation with Zimbabwe in the field of research and application of solar energy based on the principles of mutual respect, complementary and sharing benefits."
"We sincerely hope exploitation of solar energy in Zimbabwe can contribute to the nation’s course of economic recovery," said Ambassador Zhang.
The ministry was also pushing for coal bed methane development with a view to increasing local power generation options.
"CBM is a gas found in coal seams, which can be used mainly to generate electricity, and a feedstock for fertilizer production and chemical products," he said.
Cde Nyambuya urged the business community to take advantage of the Government’s Look East Policy to embark on joint venture projects with Chinese businesspeople, with a view to locally manufacture renewable energy technologies in order to promote the various technologies.

The director of renewable energy and energy conservation Mrs Elizabeth Muguti said Zimbabwe lies in one of the best sunbelts of the world.
"Solar energy potential of the country is relatively high, with an average radiation of 2 100kWh/m2 and 3 000 hours of sunshine per year and 15 to 20 percent insolation variation between seasons," she said.
On a scale of 100, Zimbabwe’s sunlight is rated 95, compared with Arizona at 100, Angola and Zambia at 83, Namibia 96, Kenya 78, Northern Italy 65 and South Germany 67, said Mrs Muguti.
"Mean maximum temperatures range between 22 and 36 degrees celcius in the hot season, while mean minimum temperatures range between 10 and 24 degrees celcius in the cool season this indicates that Zimbabwe gets relatively more solar energy from the sun than other countries," she said.
"We should therefore take advantage of this natural phenomenon through increased use of solar energy through a wide range of its applications such as telecommunications, water pumping, refrigeration, lightning, cooking, crop drying and water heating."

Additional information:
News date: 25/08/2006

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