It was an atmosphere of joyful reaction in Torankawa community of Yabo Local Government Area in Sokoto State recently as bulbs lit up across the agrarian households with the commissioning of a 60 kilowatts on-grid solar power plant.
Before last Tuesday, the people of Torankawa, about 45 minutes’ drive from Sokoto town, had only an inactive four kilometre power line connecting the community.
The dead service line under Kaduna Electric franchise area was out of supply for about five years, the residents said. The line was only revived under the grid connected solar power project delivered by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing after the place was chosen for the pilot project.
Musa Bello, a farmer, said it was a new experience as his house was among those that were metered under the mini grid electrification project.
“I was told that I can only pay for what I consume and that the electricity will be continuous for 24 hours. I never knew that there can be something like that,” Bello said expressing his joy about solar power.
A provision store owner, Aliyu Yabo, said they had relied more on generators to power shops but the new project makes all the difference. He said: “We thank whoever initiated this project for us because our reliance on generators will now reduce and new businesses can spring up.”
The District Head of Torankawa, Umar Maishanu, lauded the Federal Government for providing the stable electricity source.
Maishanu said, “For five years, there was no light and the state government was not responding to our pleas until this solar power project was delivered. We donated the land and we promise that we will safeguard it.”
Shortly before the plant was commissioned, the faulty power lines were being strung and a transformer was installed at the plant where the solar power is converted into grid active electricity and transported through the lines.
The project document notes that the 60KW solar power plant in Torankawa community was executed for about N146 million and it is the first solar power plant to be connected to the national grid in a community.
Daily Trust checks showed that the Lower Usuma Dam near Abuja has a 1.2 megawatt (MW) solar power plant connected to the national grid under the Abuja DisCo. Financing for the plant was from the Japanese Agency for International Cooperation (JICA).
The Acting Director, Department of Renewable Energy and Rural Power Access in the power ministry, Engr. Faruk Yabo Yusuf, supervised the Torankawa project. He said the plant will provide uninterrupted electricity supply to 350 households with 1,750 people benefitting from it.
He said: “It’s the first of its kind in Nigeria because all other solar projects are off grid project,” adding that the plant which connects to the national grid was a pilot one to test the mini grid regulation launched by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in 2017.
He said the plant, which was completed in three months, also provides power to 20 small businesses, five mosques, community irrigation farm and 50 street lights, disclosing that it was funded under the Renewable Energy Micro Utility (REMU) project with proceeds from the Nigerian Sovereign Green Bond issued in 2017.
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, before she commissioned it, said the plant was unique because it demonstrates the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to improve electricity supply.
“I am aware that this project is self-sustainable and therefore will request you to ensure that you guard it especially against vandalism. This will encourage the development of many similar projects,” she said.
Solar, grid power and generator convergence
The contractor and Managing Director of News Engineering Nigerian Ltd, Lady Josephine Nwaeze, said it was a landmark project as the first Grid-Connected Hybrid Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Mini Grid to be developed and energized in Nigeria.
The sub-contractor and Managing Director of Protogy Global Services, Engr. Ademola Agoro, explained that the plant has 99 per cent assurance of availability of power supply all year round. This is possible with solar, generator and the rehabilitated Kaduna Electric service line.
“It consists of 125kVA battery and electricity inverter, 60kW Solar Photophobic (PV) modules, 216 kilowatt hours (kWh) battery bank and 100KVA backup diesel generator that is meant to work as a last resort,” he said.
The project also includes a water facility for routine cleaning of the about 100 solar panels. The four kilometer Kaduna DisCo’s Town Distribution Network (TDN) disrupted five years ago was rehabilitated with the upgrade of 100 customers’ connection along with installed smart meters.
The Sokoto State Regional Manager of Kaduna Electric, Masaud Abdulkadir, lauded the grid solar project and urged the community to take advantage of it.
‘Green Bond successful, second batch coming’
The Nigerian Sovereign Green Bond issued in December 2017, was the first of such in Nigeria but with the success of this project, the Minister of Environment, Surveyor Hassan Zarma, said the second offer will be made in March 2019 and a significant part of the proceeds will go for similar projects.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Bolatito Obisesan, the minister said government was promoting clean energy and support for actions against climate change through the project.
A former Director General of the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), Prof. Abubakar Sani Sambo, advocated for more of such projects as they have direct impact on the masses.
“I want to commend the Federal Government very much and to say this is the way government should continue. The conventional grid is not sufficient and we should start using God-given renewable energy,” Prof. Sambo noted.