While most visitors and producers attended the Biomass Technology Expo 2019 to experience and learn more about de-bushing, aftercare of range lands and possible unlocking of income streams out of the scourge of invader bush, some was concentrating on a much bigger picture.
Representatives of Nampower were on the sidelines of the meeting discussing the potential supply-issues to a 40 MWh biomass power plant near the mining town of Tsumeb. The power station was mooted some time ago and came into focus again when investment in infrastructure were discussed by the President’s High Powered Committee and potential investors last month.
The idea is that wood chips harvested on the bushy plain near the mining town were to feed these two wood and steam driven thermal power generators for years to come.
Capacity of supply remains one of the outstanding issues in this regard.
Ohorongo Cement took up many tonnes of wood chips in their energy supply mix until recently when economically tough times resulted in a downturn of the million per annum factory’s production.
Both internal and export markets faded when financial hardship took hold in recent times. Another large user of wood chips is Namibia Breweries. To supply local industry, some producers invested in heavy plant to do the job in the supply chain, but they are still shy of what is needed for the Nampower project.
Capital will have to be invested on a large scale to realize the Nampower targets. As a natural spin off of such a project, leafy materials from the process can still end up in the feed-mix of cattle or as a rumen-filler for cattle in the communal areas.
Apart from Nampower who has been hunting for reliable partners, financiers like the Namibia Development Bank and the African Development Bank indicated their willingness to finance operations of such large scale. The players in the industry with perceived capacity are, however, playing their cards close their chests, not divulging their operational capacity planning.
With stock available behind every bush on every measured piece of land, the technology developed to precision and the willing industrialists ready, talk about burning charcoal became trivial at the expo and bush feed became a mere matter of fact, with the consensus that out there, there are much bigger fish to fry.