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Super Grids in Africa: Could they release the economic potential of concentrating solar power?
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Energy Technology, Energy Systems Analysis.
2013 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The way its future power systems are designed will have significant impact on sub-Saharan Africa's (SSA) aspirations to move from low electricity consumption rates to enhance life quality and further increase economic opportunity. At present, Africa is experiencing higher economic growth rates than other continents (including Asia). And so is its need for electric power. However, all too often the options that are chosen are the ones with lowest risk and that require little coordination. In part, this is because region-wide planning, coordination and institutions are in their infancy. “Low risk” power plants typically include oil generators that can be sited close to loads, other fossil fuel power plants, and hydro plants that can easily be connected to the continent’s grid. However, hydropower production has been limited due to changes in weather and climate and socio-economic impacts. Additionally, its potential has also not been reached as large sites are far from adequate grids. A restructuring of the energy system that considers both the potential for increased geographical integration while moving gradually towards more sustainable electricity generation may hold significant promise.

This work considers the potential of another renewable technology namely concentrating solar power (CSP) and connecting supply and demand centers via high voltage direct current (HVDC) power lines. Specifically, the focus is on utility-scale solar power generation to supply the needs of growing urban centers of demand. It develops a Geographic Information System-based (GIS) model with a spatial resolution of 30 arc-seconds to calculate the cost evolution of the electricity produced by different technologies of CSP plants and the costs of grid development to selected centers of demand. The results show that major SSA metropolis can benefit from distant CSP economically attractive to compete with inlaid coal-based generation. In 2010, total imports of coal exceeded 1.4 million short tons with consequent economic and environmental costs. Solar towers plants endowed with thermal storage may become a leading technology for smoothing purposes with zero fuel costs. Furthermore, Africa’s vast solar resources are far from urban centers of demand and a transmission system capable to integrate high levels of renewable energy while improving reliability of supply is required. The results of this study point to the importance of SSA centers to rely on a Super Grid approach to take advantage from CSP least-cost potential and to discontinue expensive traditional sources. Overall, solar corridors can integrate with geographically-wide wind and hydro potentials to create clean energy corridors and encourage a transition towards more sustainable energy systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Concentrating solar power, CSP, Super Grid, Smart Grid, HVDC, Sub-Saharan Africa
National Category
Energy Systems
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-129306OAI: diva2:651389
2013-09-11, Stockholm, 16:00 (English)
Available from: 2013-09-25 Created: 2013-09-25 Last updated: 2013-09-25Bibliographically approved

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