Renewable Energy Potential

Renewable energy potential

Zimbabwe has a high potential for hydro, solar and biomass generation. Thus far, only a part of the country’s hydro potential has been utilised, while solar and biomass resources remain untapped. Wind and geothermal energy are believed to have less potential in Zimbabwe than in other countries in the region and subsequently these projects are considered to be less viable.

 

Hydro

Zimbabwe’s gross theoretical hydropower potential is 18,500 GWh/year. The country’s technically feasible potential is 17,500 GWh/year, of which 19% has been utilised. Rusitu Hydro is a mini hydro plant (750kW) built and operated by private entrepreneurs. Eight small hydro plants, with capacities ranging from 3 kW to over 700 kW, have also been installed in the country. Four of these plants, with a total capacity of 21 MW, were commissioned between 2010 and 2014 and act as independent power producers (IPPs). The total small hydro potential is estimated at 120 MW, with Gairezi in Nyange district being particularly promising.

 

Solar

The average solar irradiation is 5.7 kWh/m2/day with the north and west of the country having the highest irradiation potential. Solar PV has a technical potential of over 300 MW. While installed solar power capacity is mainly situated in rural areas and particularly within social institutions, the private, individual home market is growing. A number of small and medium-sized companies that focus on the installation of PV and solar water heaters are emerging. The government will promote the use of solar water geysers that are intended to replace conventional ones. Solar-powered “base stations” for charging electrical appliances have also been installed, mainly through the national telecommunications company.

SolarGIS-Solar-map-Zimbabwe-en

Source: GeoModel Solar

 

Bagasse and biogas

Co-generation potential (bagasse) currently provides 633 GWh of electricity. The primary source of power generation is obtained from the waste materials of sugarcane production. Two sugarcane-crushing mills process more than 1.3 million tonnes of bagasse to generate electricity which is then used by the sugar factories. However, the wood industry also has strong biomass potential. The timber industry is almost entirely based on plantations and generates over 70,000 tonnes of waste for biomass annually. Long-term projections suggest this figure is expected to double. At the larger mills approximately only 10% of the wood waste is processed for biogas through  lumber drying kilns. The vast majority is burned outdoors or discarded. An estimated 4 MW of additional energy could be created through enhancing equipment at these facilities.

More than 200 biogas plants have been installed around Zimbabwe, primarily by the Ministry of Energy. The vast livestock population offers high potential for biogas generation through the processing of animal waste. The country’s first utility-scale biogas power plant (800 kW) is currently at the planning stage.

 

Wind

Average wind speed within Zimbabwe is approximately 3.5 m/s. The Ministry of Energy recognises potential in using these slow wind speeds for water pumping. ZERO, an NGO that specialises in regional environmental initiatives, has conducted feasibility studies and financed the production of 1 kW and 4 kW wind turbines for off-grid purposes, as well as providing power to municipal buildings such as clinics. Areas around Bulawayo and the Eastern Highlands have potential for larger-scale power generation due to higher wind speeds which range from 4-6 m/s.

 

Geothermal

50 MW of geothermal potential was identified in 1985, but little has been done since then to build a clearer picture of the overall capacity. However, Zimbabwe’s proximity to the geologically-active Rift Valley region of Africa indicates that geothermal power could be a viable energy option.

 

Key market segments

The following market segments can be regarded as promising for the application of renewable energy for electricity generation. This potential includes, but is not limited to, the following:

 

Hydro
Large power plants
Rural electrification/small hydro plants

Wind
Water pumping
Grid-connected power plants

Biogas/Biomass
Captive power plants for industry and institutions
Rural electrification/biogas plants for communities
Dome biogas for cooking

PV
Rural electrification/mini-grids and stand-alone systems for households and commercial users
Back-up or captive power systems for small businesses and industry