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Govt to revive collapsed solar- wind power systems

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Government says it has decided to extend the national grid to the collapsed community solar and wind hybrid power systems in six sites across the country.

Spokesperson for energy in the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Joseph Kalowekamo, said this yesterday in government’s further response to our story in The Sunday
Times this week.

In the story we revealed how the K300 million solar and wind power systems, which government implemented in six districts between 2007 and 2009, have become dysfunctional.

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Kalowekamo said the ministry has also received several complaints from beneficiaries that the systems are no longer working.

He attributed the collapse largely to batteries which have outlived their lifespan and that in some cases the systems had been struck by lightning.

“Some systems have developed technical problems due to the type of houses electrified. Most of the houses were temporary i.e. grassthatched, and some would wholly or partially collapse during rainy season resulting in short-circuits which in turn resulted in the whole system collapsing…and it was not easy to trace where the faults were,” he said.

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But Kalowekamo said while government shall maintain some of the equipment in the systems, it has opted against replacing the batteries as that would cost it K40 million in each of the villages.

“Government has [thus] finally decided to … extend the national grid to each of these villages under Marep [Malawi Rural Electrification Programme] Phase VIII,” he said, adding that activities towards implementation of the programme are already under-way.

“Actual construction works are expected to start in March, 2016. Marep Phase VIII is expected to be completed by March 2017,” he said.

He also allayed fears that standalone mini grid solar and wind systems are a failure.

“These systems have worked perfectly well in some countries. And in fact, these [local] systems generated a lot interest outside Malawi such that there were visitors from outside who came to learn from Malawi on these systems. All that it required is a good business model for effective running of the systems and for sustainability purposes,” he said.

The project electrified 6 villages using a solar-wind hybrid system with an estimated installed capacity of 25 kW each.

It was implemented in Kadzuwa in Thyolo, Chigunda in Nkhotakota, Elunyeni in Mzimba, Chitawo in Chiradzulu, Kadambwe in Ntcheu and Mdyaka in Nkhata Bay.

The concept was that the generated electricity would be used
for the provision of domestic and street lighting, powering domestic electrical appliance and refrigerators at nearby trading centres in the villages.

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