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Nigerians Universities Embrace Alternative Power Sources

With assistance from the federal ministry of education and international donors, Nigerian universities are taking advantage of alternative energy production technology, and the unbundling of the electricity production and distribution in the country, to generate their own electrical supply from a variety of sources.
The country struggles frequently with nation-wide blackouts as a result of collapses in the power grid. Power supply in the country has been privatised since 2005. Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and 11th largest in the world.

Professor Yia Argungu, from the department of hydrology at Federal University, Minna, told University World News there was a serious need among universities for alternative and independent sources of power.

“Just recently the Punch newspaper reported that the national power distribution company suffered nine system collapses, and over 100 of such cases since the sector was privatised. The same newspaper revealed that despite US$1.6 billion in local and international intervention funds to the sector, it has constantly witnessed a culture of collapse. Thus the universities have to find alternative sources of reliable and independent power supply.”

Last week it was reported that Nigerian Minister of Environment Mohammed Mahmood told the Climate Action Summit 2019 taking place in New York that seven Nigerian universities run strictly on renewable energy and 30 more federal universities are coming on board.

In some cases, the institutions have been able to sever links with the national grid, becoming self-sufficient in electricity supply for teaching and research purposes.

They do not outsource the generation, production and distribution of renewable energy; they are under the strict control of both students and staff of faculties of engineering in each university.

Organic waste

At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, an organic waste plant was launched earlier this year. According to Vice-Chancellor Professor Benjamin Ozumba, the plant – the first of its kind in the country – is a 100kVA refuse-derived fuel (RDF) gasification plant.

“By the time more of these plants are established, covering every part of the university, millions of naira will be saved every month as we will no longer pay monthly electricity bills to the power company,” he is reported to have said.

Lead engineer, Professor Emenike Ejiogu, said his team was in the process of producing 250kVA plants, enough to supply the energy needs of the entire university and nearby communities. “Our university’s power demand now is three megawatts (MW). So with 12,250kVA RDF plants, we shall meet the electricity supply needs of the university.

He said in an era of climate and environmental change the innovation would assist in fighting environmental and noise pollution.

The system uses agricultural waste products such as corn husks and wood chips sourced from neighbouring farms. According to Ejiogu, the supply of waste is a potential source of jobs for unemployed youth.

Solar

The waste plant at Nsukka follows the 2016 commissioning of a 10MW US$15 million solar plant at the University of Ibadan, a university known for frequent power outages and lack of water leading to occasional student demonstrations.

The plant is part of the Nigerian-German Energy Partnership, and is being built under the supervision of the German International Cooperation Organisation (GIZ).

At the opening ceremony, Professor Anthony Anwukah, the minister of state for education, reportedly said: “The importance of provision of consistent power supply cannot be overemphasised, as it will promote productivity, efficacy and professionalism in research teaching and learning with a remarkable impact on the quality of graduates coming out of our institution.”

“The additional advantage of this solar energy is the drastic reduction of carbon emissions and less pollution of the environment with the absence of diesel-driven generators,” according to Bodun Akinwale, a student union leader.

The Nigeria-German Energy Partnership has already seen the completion of a 10MW solar power plant for Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria at the cost of NGN4 billion (US$11 million) with the assistance of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund. Started in November 2016, the project has been completed and the university is enjoying a steady supply of electricity.

Another 7.1MW solar hybrid power plant is being built at the Bayero University, Kano. At the launch of the construction process, Vice-Chancellor Professor Muhammad Yahuza Bello said staff and students would be trained to manage and ensure the efficiency of this project.

Gas-powered turbine

Officials at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife disclosed in July this year that the university has been working with the federal government’s Rural Electrification Agency to build a gas-powered turbine on the campus that would create 8.0MW of electricity for the institution and take the university off the national grid by October.

The move was inspired by the lack of stable energy supply, according to the university’s vice chancellor, Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede, who said that under the current situation it was difficult to “plan any meaningful research”.

He said with the construction of the turbine, the university would save between NGN35million (US$96,500) and NGN65 million (US$180,000) on diesel used to power generators.