Lennart Kuntze
Lennart Kuntze
Topic: Solar energy trade opportunities in West Africa
Lennart Kuntze is part of the Trade Unit of UNEP's Geneva-based Economy and Trade Branch (ETB). He holds an M.Sc. in Public Policy and Human Development from the United Nations University institute in...
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Number of questions: [1]
Posted on 27/05/2016 00:46:45
Dear Mr. Lennart,
Would you recommend the construction of large concentrated solar power plants in West Africa of similar sizes to Shams 1 in the UAE?
Francis Bagambilana (from Tanzania (United Republic of))
Dear Mr. Bagambilana,

Many thanks for your interesting question.

A key determinant for the feasibility of solar power plants is cost. In 2013, Fraunhofer Institute found that, due to large price reductions in solar photovoltaic (PV) over the last few years the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE; USD/kWh) of PV is about half the cost of concentrated solar power (CSP), and will remain so until 2030. In West Africa, solar PV has therefore widely been the technology of choice, also because it offers small-scale, decentralized solutions. Another reason may be climatic conditions that favour solar PV technology over CSP (i.e. rather indirect solar irradiation than direct heat). CSP offers dispatchable power on-demand, which affords a key advantage over solar PV; however, the LCOE of CSP needs to become more competitive for realistic large-scale prospects. From an environmental perspective, both solar PV and CSP have similar land and material requirements, which makes them equally recommendable.

A similar plant size to Shams 1 (100 MW) can indeed be realistic for solar power in West Africa. Note that Blue Energy has planned a 155 MW solar PV plant in Ghana (Nzema project); there are other plant developers with similarly sized solar PV plant proposals. Such scale of solar PV, which generates intermittent supplies and requires adequate baseload and dispatchable capacity, is of course dependent on the capacity of the grid. Thus, a thorough grid analysis and identification of balancing supplies / storage solutions would be a necessary pre-condition.

Under our Green Economy and Trade Opportunities Project (GE-TOP) in Ghana we have provided in-depth analysis of solar PV prospects in Ghana and related trade opportunities, which may be of interest / further help (see http://drustage.unep.org/greeneconomy/ghana).

I hope this answers your question. In case you would like to know more about CSP prospects in West Africa, I suggest the following two studies from 2013: “Concentrated solar power: Current technologies, major innovative issues and applicability to West African countries”; “Site Ranking and Potential Assessment for Concentrating Solar Power in West Africa” (both available online).

Best regards, Lennart