By Prince Okafor
The Nigerian-German Energy Partnership, NGEP, has installed a 10 megawatt solar plant at the University of Ibadan.
The plant, which serves as a pilot project for universities in the country, is to provide electricity for the university and also serve as a training site for engineering students of the institution and technicians.
German Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. Bernard Schlagheck, who spoke to newsmen on the sideline of the ground-breaking ceremony, said the project was aimed at empowering universities in the country.
He also said: “This is one of the main plans by the energy policy of the Federal Government, and we are trying to respond to the policy priority of the Nigeria government.”
He noted that the next university in line was Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira, after which the project would be taken to Modibo Adama University of Technology, Yola; Bayero State University, Kano; University of Maiduguri and others.
In his welcome address, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Idowu Olayinka, said: “We thank the Federal Government of Nigeria for coming to our aid with this solar plant.
“It is our intention to use this facility as a laboratory for our students and staff in order to enhance their capacities.”
On his part, the Coordinator of NGEP, Jeremey Gaines, and the Head of Programme of the Nigeria Energy Support Programme from GIZ (German Development Cooperation Organisation), said the original cost of the project was estimated around $15 million for 10 Megawatts.
Adding: “The cost of the project, the time it takes for the project to start, and the time it takes for the project to be completed, may still go down, but that is the figure we are looking at.”
He explained: “If you take the cost of a plant like this, the cost unlike the cost of buying a thermal power station, or diesel generator, the diesel generator cost less money to buy but the Diesel generator dies after 5 years, then you have to have your back up generator, and this will pay for itself after 5 years, taking lot of the money from the diesel.
“Nigerians usually think that solar installation is more expensive than the diesel generator, it is not. When you have a diesel generator, it will give you concern on how to get Diesel, good supply as well as storage and the rest. At times there will be scarcity, and you will have to pay extra cost on getting the Diesel as well as transporting the Diesel to the required location.
“On a contrary, the upfront cost for both is not much different, it just that the solar panel gives you a maximum free operation for 25 years, and it will be advantageous for the university,” he said.
Gaines also noted that “The German government provided all of the research for the project, the company do this without any charges, they provided personnel, and the German will be getting grant so that the university financing will be cheaper.
“The system will come with a teaching laboratory, the laboratory, is to teach undergraduates and post graduates how to do the electric of renewable energy.”
Commenting on the maintenance of the panel, he said: “All that it takes to do a proper maintenance for the system is to clean the panels. Smaller panels is Nigeria, are filled with dust that is why they don’t work optimally.
“Nigeria experience constant rain for four to five months, the rest of the year that there is no rain, they will need to clean the panel once every six weeks. We will employ lots of local hand just to clean it. The plant will only need four engineers to operate it,” he noted.
According to the Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwukah, “The importance of provision of consistent power supply to our higher institution cannot be overemphasized, as it will promote productivity, efficacy and professionalism in research, teaching and learning with a remarkable impact on the quality of graduate coming out of our institution.
“This off-grid power plant, when completed, will be environmentally-friendly with little or no carbon emission, which is in line with global climate change standards.
“For our Universities to be highly rated in Africa and the world, we must have a good research infrastructure, and provision of energy is very key in the process. The plant will also have the multiplier effect of providing electricity to neighboring communities,” he noted.