POWER Digest [February 2023]

Geothermal Plant Planned in Colombia. Colombian petroleum company Ecopetrol in December announced plans to build a 250-kW geothermal power plant in the Apiay oil complex in Meta, Colombia. The power plant will harness geothermal heat from existing oil wells from which oil and water at 100C are co-produced. The target is for the pilot plant to be ready by June of this year. Edgar Partenina Blanco, Ecopetrol Llanos Management vice president, said the production well draws fluid from a depth of 3.5 kilometers. Heat from the geothermal fluid will be used to vaporize a secondary gas, indicating that a binary power plant is planned for the development. The region of Meta had been previously identified as one of three potential sites for geothermal pilot projects. All three sites could generate power from hot water derived from oil drilling. One such facility, the 100-kW geothermal unit in the Las Maracas field in Casanare, already operates in Colombia. It came online in March 2021. Ecopetrol has said the development of a geothermal pilot plant is part of the company’s strategy to build out renewable energy generation capacity, including solar and hydropower facilities.

China Looking at Coal-Fired Generation in Afghanistan. Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), the power distributor for Afghanistan, in early January said Chinese investors are prepared to invest in a coal-fired power plant in that country. A statement from DABS said the plant would have 500 MW of generation capacity. “The technical delegations of DABS and China through joint meetings will discuss all issues on how to produce electricity from coal and the result of the meetings will be shared with the leaders of the Islamic Emirate,” the DABS statement said. Business groups continue to be concerned about Afghanistan’s power supply, and media reports have said residents of the capital, Kabul, often only have electricity for about four hours each day. DABS in its statement said the country needs an additional 1.6 GW of power generation supply, from both domestic sources and imports of electricity from Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Australia Opens First Offshore Wind Zone. Government officials in Australia said that country in mid-December officially opened its first offshore wind zone off the southern coast of Victoria. The zone, in the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania, has the potential to site at least 10 GW of wind power generation capacity, according to a government statement. A project in that zone, known as Star of the South, also was granted major project status as officials seek to boost the 2.2-GW project’s ability to raise capital. Australia wants to pick up the pace of offshore wind development as it moves to replace the country’s aging fleet of coal-fired power plants. Industry Minister Ed Husic, at a ceremony marking the wind zone designation, said, “We want to see more large-scale projects built in coming years. This will help integrate Australian manufacturing with renewable energy infrastructure, delivering more jobs in Australian companies.” The country currently has onshore wind projects, and is building out its solar power capacity, as it seeks to get 95% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2035.

UK-Based Investor Supporting African Hydro Plants. Gridworks Development Partners, a British International Investment company, in late December announced a $50 million investment in Virunga Power, a Mauritius-based group that invests in electrification via run-of-river power plants. Gridworks is supporting activities south of the Sahara Desert, primarily in East Africa. Virunga operates several run-of-the-river plants, including the Zengamina hydropower plant on the Upper Zambezi River. The plant’s power supports a mini-grid operating under a distribution license from Zambia’s Energy Regulatory Board. The mini-grid serves the Ikelenge district in North West Province. Virunga Power also is developing small hydroelectric projects in Malawi, Kenya, and Tanzania. Gridworks also is supporting new projects in Burundi, and said its investment in the Zengamina plant will result “in an increase in generation capacity and the addition of thousands of new connections.” Other investors in Virunga Power include the Electrification Finance Initiative, funded by the European Union, and the Renewable Energy Performance Platform, an initiative of the UK government.

Diesel-Fueled Plant Commissioned in Niger. Government officials in Niger in late December inaugurated a 22-MW power plant, with a goal of increasing access to electricity in a region where only about 20% of the population has such access. Officials said the plant, built by the Mauritanian company ISTITHMAR West Africa (IWA) and its Turkish partner WINENERJI, represents an investment of $23.6 million. IWA and WINENERJI will initially operate the plant, eventually turning it over to Nigerian authorities. Niger Energy Minister Ibrahim Yacoubou said the plant is part of the country’s national energy accessibility strategy, which has a goal of increasing electricity access from 20% to 80% by 2035, with an interim goal of 40% by 2025. Niger has several other projects underway, including a 30-MW solar farm in Niamey, expected online in April, as well as a 25-MW hybrid diesel-solar plant in Agadez. Yacoubou said at least another 15 projects are planned. In addition, the African Development Bank is financing a 20-MW plant in Maradi, and 10-MW hybrid plants in Dosso and Diffa.

SF6 -Free Gas-Insulated Switchgear Will Be Used in London Power Tunnels Project. Hitachi Energy will deliver gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) and gas-insulated lines (GIL) containing no sulfur hexafluoride (SF 6) to builders of the London Power Tunnels (LPT) project. Considered one of the city’s largest engineering projects since the 1960s, the LPT will span 32.5 kilometers via underground tunnels in South London. It will replace ageing high-voltage electricity cables and expand network capacity to meet increasing demand. The project includes the Bengeworth Road substation, which Linxon is constructing for National Grid. Hitachi Energy will deliver seven bays of its EconiQ 420-kV GIS, in addition to EconiQ 420-kV GIL for the substation. Hitachi Energy says its EconiQ high-voltage portfolio is “100% as reliable as the conventional solutions based on SF6.” The installation is expected to commence this year.

Land Secured for Philippines Largest Solar Farm. Solar Philippines Nueva Ecjia Corp. (SPNEC), also known as Solar Philippines New Energy Corp., a subsidiary of Solar Philippines, in early January said it has secured a “majority of its target lands” for what would be that country’s largest solar power project. Leandro Leviste, CEO of Solar Philippines, in a stock exchange filing said, “Converting over 3,000 hectares [7,400 acres] for industrial use is the most significant value driver for SPNEC, and we will provide further updates as we work to create value on this for our shareholders.” Solar Philippines in the filing said it expects construction of the project will begin in the latter part of 2023. “Land underpins an entire project, and our landbank in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan in particular is unique, in terms of its scale and proximity to Manila,” said Leviste. The project has a power supply agreement with Manila Electric Co. for 850 MW of renewable energy.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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