Mauritius is on-shoring sustainable development

2014-04-01 - Island’s first megawatt-scale solar power plant to help reduce dependence on imported energy and exported CO2 emissions
Mauritius is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s economic success stories. The remote Indian Ocean nation of some 1.2 million people has enjoyed steady industrial, financial and tourism growth since shifting from a largely agricultural economy just decades ago.

Accessible, reliable energy has been critical part of this transition. However Mauritius is only able to meet around a quarter of its energy needs through local generation. As it lies a few thousand kilometers from the mainland, the remaining balance - more than 75 percent – must be imported in the form of diesel, coal and fuel oils.

Demand for electricity in Mauritius is expected to grow by 60 percent over the next 10 years. To ensure this higher demand is met in an economically and environmentally sustainable way, the country announced its “Maurice Ile Durable” (MID) initiative in 2008. MID is composed of five balanced pillars including education, environment, employment, equity and energy, aimed at making Mauritius a world model for sustainable development.

The energy pillar includes a number of policies and incentives to reduce energy consumption and to shift Mauritius’s energy mix towards more renewables. The country’s goal is to meet 35 percent of demand through local renewable generation by 2025.

The 15.2 MWp plant is the first megawatt-scale PV power plant on the island.

Part of this plan includes a Small Scale Distributed Generation project for businesses, residents and communities install their own photo voltaic (PV) panels to meet their needs and to sell surplus energy back to the local grid. According to Mauritius’s Central Electricity Board (CEB), this will add over 2 MW of additional renewable capacity. Some 40,000 people will also participate in a program to provide solar heated water in homes.

On a larger scale the CEB has also invested in some 60 MW of new solar and wind capacity to be added to the grid by 2015. ABB delivered 17 central inverters for a 15.2 MW PV power plant at La Feme which was developed by the Tauber-Solar Group from Germany. The PV plant was successfully connected in February, 2014 and will produce approximately 24 gigawatt-hours of clean energy a year and save approximately 15,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Many other ‘off-grid” islands are taking steps to become more energy self sufficient and increase renewable development. King Island, part of Tasmania, has an integrated renewables and smart grid project underway which will ultimately meet more than two thirds of the island’s energy needs with renewables, and already reduces diesel fuel consumption by some two million liters a year.

On the opposite end of the world is Samsø, Denmark – an island of some 4,000 people that lies between the Baltic and North seas. Samsø is capable of meeting 100 percent of its energy needs through wind, and even sells excess capacity back to the Danish power grid. The island’s inhabitants own shares in most of its wind turbines, one farmer earns as much as $4,000 a month from his turbine investment.

“Renewables offer enormous potential for us to realize Maurice Ile Durable’s vision for sustainable development,” said Ajay Vij, country manager for ABB in Mauritius. “However as we introduce more distributed and intermittent generation we also need to maintain reliability. We are really developing a self-sufficient mini-grid here, and it’s important that we look at the health and stability of the entire power network. This means exploring technologies for grid stability and energy storage systems.”

ABB supplied 17 central inverters, ranging from 630 kW up to 1,000 kW for a PV power plant located on the island of Mauritius.