The managing director of National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) Solar Energy Limited (NSEL), Dr. Jafaru Mahmud, has disclosed that the reason behind the establishment of the Solar Energy Limited (NSEL) by NASENI is to close obvious gaps in power supply in Nigeria.
According to him, the concern and passion to see a genuine socio-economic transformation of the country led the agency into full-scale solar manufacturing, including other renewable energy mixes.
The NASENI solar firm with full installed capacity can generate between 80 to 100 megawatts of solar electricity with the potential to generate more as the factory could be replicated in all 36 states of the Federation in collaboration with the private sector, said Mahmud.
While speaking with a team of online newsmen at the factory in Karshi, Abuja, the NSEL CEO recently disclosed that NASENI initiated the NSEL as a direct outcome of research and development (R&D) efforts in response to the cry that energy was not sufficient in the country and significantly at a time nobody was doing anything to increase the generation of more power for the country. Also, the concept he said was the Agency’s contribution to improve or boost energy required for technological, social, political and economic development of Nigeria.
In 2010, he explained, NASENI set up this place as Karshi Solar Manufacturing Company, that was what it was called then, but particularly the current NASENI executive vice chairman, Prof. Mohammed Haruna had worked hard with the dream that NASENI should be able to contribute to Nigeria’s energy mix through the production of alternative power supply. So, in NASENI, there is the small hydro-power (SHP), wind energy and solar energy, etc, but significantly the NASENI solar firm was meant to demonstrate the practicability of solar energy concept in the country such that investors and venture capitalists take up the responsibility to run it as a business.
NSEL commenced with the solar PV manufacturing and, of course, it began 10 years ago with the completely knocked down (CKD), but gradually local content started coming in and, as of today, the manpower is 100 percent Nigeria and in terms of raw materials for solar manufacturing, the company is in the neighbourhood of about 23 per cent local content “because we have some local things which we are doing and it is no longer business as usual [just bringing foreign solar parts in and then we just assemble. No].”
“The next phase is that we are closing the gaps in expertise because even the solar facilities that we have on the ground still don’t have enough manpower to support them and that is why we went into the construction of training facility, the 120-seater auditorium which is about to be completed. It is dedicated to training sessions and conferences on solar energy and related renewable energy innovations.”
NASENI solar panels are currently in use in many Nigerian homes and they have neither failed in the supply of electricity nor stopped working. “We have users and direct customers already: homeowners, public and private facilities, supermarkets, Airport Road, Life Camp, CITEC Estate, EFAB and many more. We have customers that would tell us how they wanted the solar energy deployed, we are happy to tell you that, till today, the ones installed for all our customers are functional.”
Mahmud acquiesced that there are impediments to accessing solar energy. “The first challenge is the current flooding of Nigerian markets with substandard products, either as solar PVs or finished products. What we know is that solar energy is a location-dependent activity and, therefore, requires survey and appropriate design. Even in Nigeria, what you design for Maiduguri should be different from what you do for Abuja and what you will do for Lagos is quite different from what you do in Imo. The climatic conditions are different. You must be sensitive to geographical conditions; if you are not, these facilities will not give you optimum performance. Two, we have quacks or so-called experts who do not have in-depth knowledge on how the solar system works; they just know that when you join one or two wires to something light will come.
“There are some customers who have found themselves at the mercy of so-called solar experts or inexperienced technicians. Such people have only created a bad image or impression of the vocation. Third, we have the issue of the continued importation of solar materials. The cost of solar energy is still relatively high and this is being currently addressed by NASENI with the proposed plan to set up a solar cell manufacturing plant in Nigeria soon.
“NASENI plans to increase the local content of solar panel manufacturing in Nigeria up to 85 per cent through local production of solar cells from silica ingots (common sand) which is massively abundant in the country. The solar cells manufacturing alone will create a minimum of 19,800 local jobs from extraction and processing of silica, including aluminium framework production. This venture will lead to the conservation of Nigeria’s foreign exchange and reduction of capital flights.”
Ayeoyenikan is the deputy director of information at the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure. He can be reached on email@example.com.