Harnessing Renewable Energy in Zambia

As man’s demand for power increases, new sources of energy have to be sought to sustain his well being. This energy should be easy to access, affordable, easy to manage and most importantly, self-replenishing so as to preserve the environment.

One of the energies meeting these criteria is wind energy. Winds arise from the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun. They have energy within them which can move trees, sands, waters, cause tides and more. Winds at moderate to high speed can rotate turbines.

Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind to mechanical power. This mechanical power can be used for specific tasks including grinding maize, pumping water or transmitting it to a generator to convert it from mechanical power to electrical.

Wind power is a viable, widely distributed, renewable resource that can be tapped into as economies around the world seek to develop cleaner, more efficient and cheaper energy alternatives. With careful planning and adequate investment, wind farm plants could take shape in Zambia like they have in other parts of the world.

The harnessing of readily available wind energy could provide an alternative to the highly monopolized power sector. With wind turbine technology becoming cheaper and more efficient around the world, developing economies can take advantage of this resource to provide electricity to settlements that have been left out of the national grid.

Zambia has vast resources of water power which have been harnessed to cater for the nation’s energy needs. The main power utility company, Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) has however resorted to massive load-shedding strategies to balance the demand for power, despite the potential for a higher output. Furthermore, the power utility company has increased tariffs yet again this year in 2010, with domestic clients being the hardest hit after seeing a rise in the residential tariff of 41% from K265 to K373 per kilowatt hour. As this is regressive for a developing economy, an alternative has to be established.

With an average height above sea level of more than 1000 metres, Zambia’s geographical features and location put her in a position to harness the winds that blow across the country with good average speeds year out.

It is against this background that the development of wind farms spanning the country becomes feasible. A wind farm is a collection of wind turbines within the same location, used for production of electric power. A wind turbine is a machine that maybe looked at as having the reverse effect of a ventilator or fan; it uses air in motion to turn blades whose rotation is transmitted along a shaft connected to a generator, thereby producing electrical energy out of mechanical energy.

The terms wind energy or wind power describe the process by which wind is used to generate mechanical power or electricity.

Wind energy is fast becoming a reliable energy resource in Europe and other parts of the world including Denmark, the USA, Germany, Canada, and Japan.

A well developed network of wind farms could significantly reduce the unit price of electricity due to increased competition and wider access to power. The new capacity would enable power utility companies to lessen their load and thus eliminate the need for load-shedding.

Municipally administered wind farms could generate revenue for local authorities while providing cheaper, easily accessible power to the less privileged communities in Zambia. For the environment, wind energy is another clean, environmentally friendly resource. It compares in cleanliness to hydro power. A move in this direction would encourage utility companies to continue providing power to the nation while seeking even more green technologies.

Wind energy undoubtedly has a great potential to be developed in Zambia and across the Southern African region as a whole. The first commercial wind farm in South Africa was commissioned in May of 2008, near Darling in the Western Cape. Similarly, Zambia can embark on wind power development.

Harnessing this renewable resource is also in line with Millennium Development Goal No. 7 of ensuring environmental sustainability while providing cheaper, cleaner energy to areas currently without power or locations too remote to include on the national network. In order for Zambia to keep abreast with the energy demands of the 21st century, various stake holders, including government ultimately have to commit themselves to this goal among others.

Zambia, a landlocked country in south-central Africa, is about one-tenth larger than Texas. It is surrounded by Angola, Zaire, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. The country is mostly a plateau that rises to 8,000 ft (2,434 m) in the east.

By Kennedy Simutowe( BSc Eng. EIZ) & Teza Simutowe( BSc Natural Resources), www.lusakatimes.com