Namibia wants to become a green hydrogen superpower

According to the German Research Ministry, Namibia has the potential to produce renewable H2 for 1.5-2 euros per kilo, despite the additional cost of desalination of seawater required for electrolysis. Here are the strengths of a hydrogen hotspot.

Two thirds of the territory has solar irradiation values higher than 2,700 kWh / m2

In the run-up to the lowest price for green hydrogen there is a protagonist who is rarely talked about. When considering the countries in pole position to bring down the production costs of renewable H2, the thought usually goes to an economic power like Australia, which together with Japan is at the forefront of creating a global supply chain of green energy. Or to Chile, which has two tricks up its sleeve: the Acatama desert has the highest world solar radiation values, while Patagonia can count on winds among the most sustained and constant on the planet. On the other hand, we rarely think of Africa. Yet, there is a respectable contender: Namibia.

Low cost renewables

The southern African country has a mix of perfect conditions for obtaining energy from renewable sources at very low cost. It can count on over 3,500 hours of sunshine a year: to put it into perspective, the highest values of heliofania in Italy beat the 2,600 hours in Sardinia, Sicily, Calabria and Puglia.

In addition, two thirds of its territory have solar irradiation values higher than 2,700 kWh / m2, similar to those of Australia and higher than those of much of the Arabian Peninsula. Furthermore, a large part of the coastal areas of Namibia have ideal conditions for wind farms.

Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The hydrogen reacts with oxygen across an electrochemical cell similar to that of a battery to produce electricity, water, and small amounts of heat. Many different types of fuel cells are available for a wide range of applications. Small fuel cells can power laptop computers and even cell phones, and military applications. Large fuel cells can provide electricity for backup or emergency power in buildings and supply electricity in places that are not connected to electric power grids. As of the end of October 2020, there were about 161 operating fuel cells at 108 facilities in the United States with a total of about 250 megawatts (MW) of electric generation capacity. The largest is the Red Lion Energy Center in Delaware with about 25 MW total electric generation capacity, which uses hydrogen produced from natural gas to operate the fuel cells.

A green hydrogen superpower?

These assumptions make Namibia a paradise for the production of green hydrogen. According to Stefan Kaufmann, Commissioner for Innovation for Green Hydrogen at the German Ministry of Education and Research, the cost of a kilo of H2 in the country could easily be between 1.5 and 2 euros. These price levels already incorporate the surplus necessary for the desalination of sea water with which to feed the electrolysis. The process, in fact, uses technology based on platinum and iridium, both metals with which the country is well supplied. On balance, desalination should only affect 1% of the final production cost.

However, this potential has not been exploited so far. HYPHEN Hydrogen Energy will be the first to think about it, which in November 2021 was awarded a project worth 9.6 billion dollars (equal to the country’s annual GDP), 3GW of electrolysis capacity and 5GW of installed capacity between wind and solar power. Annual production is expected to reach 300,000 tons of green hydrogen.

The project will be located in a strategic area, in the Tsau Khaeb national park, in the desert 100 km from the coast, very close to the main naval routes and major land corridors in southern Africa. The country plans to start exporting the energy carrier in 2025. Obviously, once the necessary infrastructures are completed, especially the port ones. For which the Windhoek government wants to focus on public-private partnerships and is already catalyzing the interest of investors. Taking advantage of another factor that should not be underestimated: Namibia is among the least corrupt countries in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the ranking of Transparency International.

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