Federal universities in Nigeria have welcomed the commissioning of the first megawatt-scale solar hybrid project that will reduce dependence on fossil fuels and the grid and are expected to be rolled out at every such institution in the country.

Under the federal government’s Energizing Education programme, 37 universities and seven teaching hospitals are being equipped with solar power plants. VP Yemi Osinbajo was on hand to commission a 2.8MW solar PV plant in Ebonyi State at Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu Alike Ikwo (FUNAI).

The vice president also noted that projects at three other universities, including the University of Lagos, will be completed by the end of this year. Yemi Osinbajo explained that the programme also marks efforts to reduce dependence on the national grid by increasing resilient, distributed energy facilities around the country.

Capacity will be upgraded at “several different States of the Federation and several communities” in order to provide “private power in universities and economic clusters,” the VP said.

“For example, we have private power in Sabon-Geri market, Kano. We are commissioning another 7,000 shops there, we have private power also in the Ariaria market in Abia State, both solar power and we have a fuel-based and gas-based power plant there as well.”

Details on equipment used were not given. However, REA’s Energizing Education Programme quoted the CEO of EPC contractor Sterling & Wilson, Deepak Thakur, who said that: “The installed 2.8MW solar hybrid power plant will decommission petrol and diesel generators with a capacity of 1.54MW, creating a cleaner and environmentally friendly atmosphere for the university community.”

The system is thought to include battery energy storage: the Energizing Education Programme website shows a diagram of how a project installation works, including solar PV panels and batteries, a backup generator going via step-up transformer into the local distribution line and from there through smart meters into the university buildings, training centres and teaching hospitals.

Vice president Osinbajo said that in tandem with improving energy access including street lights, the programme will “result in the decommissioning of hundreds of generators”. Osinbajo also highlighted that other benefits of the projects will include job creation for the projects themselves and renewable energy training for students, including specific programmes to train more young women, who are currently under-represented, in the STEM sector.

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