Solar-wise, my trip to Zambia was better than I could ever have imagined. I didn´t get to see a lot of the country outside of the capital, but that was ok because our program was packed full of exciting solar power projects. Bjørn from Glava Energy Center had set me up with a solar power guide for my entire stay, Abyia Simwinga. Abiya is a Zambian engineer with a solar engineering degree from Sweden. He had taken leave from his job at the Zambian Utility, ZESCO, to make sure I would have the best opportunity to learn as much as possible during my stay.
His friend, Daniel, picked me up from the airport and took me to my hostel. The next day I was picked up by both Abiya and Daniel, and they took me to meet some businessmen at a company called Wind Sun Energy. They were in the process of commissioning a large solar installation on the roof of a medical research center and wanted to show me their project.
This was actually my first commercial roof project, just like this whole trip has been full of firsts. I love learning this way. Not from a classroom, but by being able to see all the technology in real life, and to ask all my questions directly to the competent people who actually make the projects.
Afterwards, Abiya and Daniel took me to a local lunch place with a buffet where they made me try literally everything on the menu.
After lunch we went to visit a massive solar park which was still in the building process, called Ngonye PV Plant(By Enel). The park is going to be 34MW, hopefully producing 70GWh per year, which will help reduce CO2 emissions with about 45 000 tonnes per year. (For reference the one in Rwanda was 8,5MW and I thought that was big at the time.) This park was so massive. There were racks of solar arrays as far as my eyes could see. By visiting a construction site, I got to see all the parts and pieces of the plant as well as the construction plans. This was obviously also new to me, and such a good experience. The most interesting thing to me was having explained how the original designs and plans changed during the building process. And how they had to be re-done because the theory and tests apparently didn’t always apply to the real-life conditions.
After a long day, Abiya and Daniel went back to my hostel so that I could present the way me and my company, Entro, work with energy efficiency. I was so much fun to be able to inspire and to help bring our energy efficiency knowledge to another country. I am learning so much from Zambia, so it was nice to be able to give some knowledge back to this country too.
The next day we went to another construction site in the same area, the Bangweulu Solar PV Project. This park was 54MW, so even larger than the one from yesterday. The power plants are literally placed next door to each other, but the technologies could not have been more different. This park was a thin film park with static panels, while Ngonye used silicon crystalline with tracker-technology. All the electrical equipment was also completely different, which made this even more exiting for me to see. We got a great tour of the site and it was so interesting to see the differences between the two parks.
I really enjoyed seeing two parks, so different, right next to each other. I would have thought the conditions would be almost the same, and therefore also the choice of technology. When I asked the reason why they chose thin film, the answer was: money. It was cheaper and they got a good price.
On my last day we went back to the first project to talk some more to Wind Sun Energy. Also they, wanted to see my energy efficiency presentation to get some inspiration. Wind Sun Energy was working on the commissioning of the research center project and Abiya and Daniel jumped in to help. They really, really love commissioning and engineering, so doing some work for free was just fun for them, haha. So while they were busy doing that, I could hold my presentation.
Dinnertime and goodbyes were coming up, so as a thanks for being my guide, I decided to make a traditional Norwegian meal before I left. I was not easy to get a hold of salmon or fish in Zambia, so I decided on tacos. If we are being honest, what is really more Norwegian than the classical friday tacos?
So that was the end of my trip to Zambia. I really wish I could see more of the country, but I´m sure I will be back at some point. Thank you so much Abiya for taking your time to teach me and guide me through all these solar projects. The experience has been priceless!