By Ebele Orakpo
As the debate on whether or not the 6,000Mw target set by the Federal overnment will be a reality with less than four months to go rages, with some sa
ying it is possible and others saying it is impossible based on what is currently on ground, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, PSC Industries Ltd., Dr. Patrick Owelle has thrown a challenge to the Federal Government saying if indeed the 6,000Mw target must be met by December 2009, then government must adopt a new approach to power generation and depart from the traditional method that has not served the nation over the years. As he puts it: â€œIt is absolutely possible if government embraces solar energy.â€
In an exclusive chat with Vanguard in Lagos, Dr. Owelle said his company which is a total solar electricity solutions provider, â€œcan build solar farms that will feed into the national grid and this problem of 3,000mw of electricity for this country can beÂ increased virtually overnight if we are given the opportunity to do so.â€
Explaining further, Owelle said: â€œAs we build these solar farms, and build independent solar systems for the homes, we can tie them to the grid and whatever excess electricity we get goes back into the grid and can go back to other people for their use,â€ he stated.
A solar farm, according to him, is a congregation of solar panels and inverters to change the direct current generated from the solar panels to alternating current which can then be fed into the grid directly. The utility company then pays for it while it supplies and bills the consumers for the services.
On the initial cost of installing the system which is perceived to be on the high side, Owelle said: â€œFor now, I think the price is competitive because if you look at solar in a vacuum, yes, it seems like the price is high but itâ€™s really not because if you compare your solar panel to your diesel generator, with the generator, you are going to keep buying diesel after first buying the generator, you are going to be maintaining the equipment and after five years, you are going to replace it. With solar, you buy the system and that is the end of it.â€
He, however stated that â€œthe company has actually talked to banks that can issue loans to people to buy systems and they pay just like they are paying PHCN every month, and the pay out period could be one year, two or three years and you are done for the rest of your life.â€
Making a case for solar energy, he said solar, as it is today, is far cheaper than any other alternative source of electricity and it has so many advantages over the traditional methods of electricity generation such as thermal and hydro. According to him, with solar energy, the question of pollution of the environment with fumes and noise, green house gases effect, fluctuations and so on, does not arise.
He noted that â€œoil reserves may dry up but the sun has no such problem as it will remain with us until the end of mankind.â€
Reacting to the question on whether solar-generated electricity can power heavy industrial and hospital equipment, Owelle said: â€œA lot of people donâ€™t understand that solar electricity is just the same thing as your traditional electricity you get from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.
There is no difference. Itâ€™s 220-230 volts, 50 hertz frequency electricity, same thing, no difference,â€ stating however, that the only thing is that the consumer has to be prepared to pay upfront for the system, â€œbut the benefit is obviously you donâ€™t have to pay a penny after you install the system for the rest of your life virtually.
So itâ€™s a lot cheaper, itâ€™s a lot better but you have to size the system properly so you could power whatever you want to power. Itâ€™s no problem at all,â€ he stated.
Meanwhile, the company with offices in UK, Canada, US and Nigeria in partnership with Rimas B.V of Netherlands has brought in five turn key PV solar module manufacturing lines to enable them produce solar modules in Nigeria which will help in bringing down cost.
The companyâ€™s boss noted that by December, 2009 or early 2010, production will start in Nigeria mainly for the Weest Africa market, adding that the manufacturing lines which cost about 12 million euros (N2.8 billion), will create over 1,500 jobs in 2009/2010 in the country.
He noted that if countries like the UK, US, Spain and Canada with tremendous snow can make use of solar energy, then Nigeria which is highly endowed, having 10 – 12 hours of sunlight per day, should have no reason to complain about lack of electricity to power its economy and make life more meaningful for the citizenry, adding that â€œthe way of theÂ future has got to be renewable energy, and solar especially because it holds significant promise not just for Africa but the world in general.â€
He said that the fact that an European consortium has put in $600 billion into the Moroccan solar desert initiative, â€œobviously, that has to tell somebody something, where we are actually exporting electricity back to Europe and I think itâ€™s high time we began to do things in Nigeria to demonstrate that we have the capacity,â€ he stated.