Energy Observer in Namibia, the New Green Hydrogen Eldorado?

By October 5, 2023 4   min read  (620 words)

October 5, 2023 |

2023 10 04 14 19 58 2

For its seventh and final stopover in Africa, Energy Observer dropped her anchor in Namibia, one of the world’s countries with the highest photovoltaic potential. The laboratory vessel stopped in a country that aims to become one of the world’s leading exporters of green hydrogen by 2030, even though it currently imports almost 60% of its electricity consumption and is utterly committed to the energy transition.

With an average of 300 days of sunshine a year and long days lasting between 11 and 14 hours, depending on the season, Namibia is just behind Chile, which holds the world record for sunshine. That’s over 3,000 hours of sunlight a year, in one of the continent’s most politically stable countries. Namibia’s cool temperatures are also a main factor in improving the efficiency of the photovoltaic panels, a phenomenon that the Energy Observer crew witnesses every day on the vessel’s deck. That is thanks to the cold Benguela marine current that runs along the west coast of southern Africa.

With its remarkable renewable energy and mining resources, massive investment in seawater desalination, and massive green hydrogen production projects, Energy Observer had to uncover and document the challenges facing this extraordinary country. For this 81st stopover, the laboratory vessel is docked at the Walvis Bay Yacht Club, the country’s only deep-water commercial port and future low-carbon fuel terminal, ideally located on the South Atlantic shipping routes.

Energy Observer Productions %E2%80%93 Agathe Roullin %E2%80%93 Mr Alberto de la Calle Ambassador of Spain I Mr Sebastien Minot Ambassador of France I Mrs Vivian Loss Sanmartin Ambassador of Brazil

Energy Observer Productions – Agathe Roullin – Mr Alberto de la Calle, Ambassador of Spain I Mr Sébastien Minot, Ambassador of France I Mrs Vivian Loss Sanmartin, Ambassador of Brazil

Namibia begins its energy transition

Agathe Roullin, onboard reporter, and Victorien Erussard visited and filmed an impressive seawater desalination plant installed by French company Orano.

One of Namibia’s main problems is the lack of water, with rainfall barely exceeding twenty millimeters a year in the west of the country (sixty times less than in Brest) and freshwater resources under enormous pressure from the mining industry.

As a reminder, Namibia’s subsoil is exceptionally rich, with uranium in particular (Namibia is the world’s 3rd largest producer) in the Erongo region (Walvis Bay). This mining resource accounts for around 10% of the country’s GDP and more than 60% of export earnings over the 2017-2019 period.

To remedy this shortage of fresh water and meet its needs, the French company Orano (formerly Areva) has installed the largest reverse osmosis seawater desalination complex in Southern Africa.

“The plant currently produces 12 to 13 million cubic meters of fresh water per year (1,800 m3 per hour), 90% for the mining industry and 10% for the local population,” explains Agathe Roullin, onboard reporter who visited the site with Victorien Erussard. “As the hydrogen economy matures, it’s clear that demand will continue to grow considerably, necessitating the creation of new plants like Erongo. The challenge will be to ensure that local populations benefit from it and that the impact on marine ecosystems is limited.”

Orano reserves the right to almost double its annual production to 25 million cubic meters of fresh water, “the equivalent of 10,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools”, or even to invest further, increasing the site’s output to 45 million cubic meters.”

That is also where the Namibian paradox comes to the fore. The seawater pumps that power the Erongo site are electrically driven and are themselves, powered by electricity purchased from neighboring South Africa.

“Namibia relies on imports for 60% of its electricity consumption, via contracts with South Africa among others, most of whose production is generated by coal-fired power plants…”.

In the short term, Orano wishes to decarbonize part of its business and has just embarked on the development of a solar power plant.



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