Supplying Power Where Power is Due: Annobon Island Microgrid

 

Darren Hammell, Princeton Power Systems
Darren Hammell, Princeton Power Systems

With electricity only five hours a day, Annobon Island is much like many other remote areas of the developing world. Darren Hammel of Princeton Power Systems explains the changes that the Annobon Island microgrid will bring to this Equatorial Guinea community.

Annobon Island is the southern-most island of Equatorial Guinea off the coast of west central Africa. The island has a population of approximately 5,000 residents, with limited access to reliable electricity. In 2014, residents of Annobon Island had access to electricity for about five hours per day, if at all, and even then the electricity did not come cheap as they would spend an average of 15-20 percent of their annual income on supplemental power.

Unfortunately, the scenario on Annobon Island is fairly common throughout the developing world, especially on islands. The quickest and most convenient way to bring electricity to remote areas is with a diesel generator. They are widely available nearly everywhere on the planet, and reasonable cheap to buy and install. The problem comes with the long-term operation of these generators, which can be very expensive, particularly in locations that do not have easy access to the refined diesel fuel that the generators need to run. Furthermore, these generators are loud, polluting, burn significant volumes of fuel, and must be frequently monitored, maintained, and overhauled. Overall, this leads to diesel generators being a very expensive way to generate electricity.

What’s worse, generators are typically oversized for the average amount of power they provide, which makes them run inefficiently, burn more fuel, and need more maintenance. Finally, with many mechanical moving parts they are prone to break-downs and are tough to count on for reliable electricity, especially in warm temperatures.

One new solution to this issue relies on solar energy, advanced batteries, and advanced power electronics and controllers to create a “microgrid” to supply a village or an entire island with reliable and cost-effective electricity. As the technology to do this reliable and cost-effectively has only recently become available, it requires strong leadership and political will to develop microgrid projects at large scale. Annobon’s President Obiang Nguema had a vision to raise the quality of life for the residents by filling the need for an energy solution that would provide them with electricity for 24 hours a day seven days a week, and after consulting with industry came across solar microgrid technology as an optimal solution. Princeton Power Systems stepped in with the technology and capabilities to prove that one does not have to live on the mainland to enjoy the benefits of affordable, reliable, low-pollution electricity.

Princeton Power Systems, based out of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, opened doors in 2001. The company has extensive experience with microgrids having developed perhaps the highest profile solar microgrid in the world for the US National Park Service on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, plus many other projects with customers across the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa. Princeton’s UL and CE-certified power electronics are used worldwide in advanced battery operations both tied to the electric grid and offgrid, with built-in smart functions for ancillary services.

The company’s project on Alcatraz, off the coast of California, is similar to the Annobon Island situation in the sense that they are both isolated from central power grids and Alcatraz previously ran entirely on diesel-fueled generators, which drove a significant amount of operating costs and pollutants for the Golden Gate Recreational area that manages the island. The Alcatraz Microgrid has been operating reliable for nearly three years, since the project was commissioned in 2012. During that time, the amount of diesel fuel consumed on the island has dropped by over 50 percent, reducing the number of fuel-resupply ferries that go out to the island by almost 75%. The resulting cost savings, emission savings, and improved electric grid reliability have made the project a success for the Park Service.

In collaboration with the project developer MAECI – Management & Economics Consulting, Inc.) and partners, Princeton Power Systems began the build-out of a 5-MW self-sufficient solar microgrid on Annobon Island, consisting of 20,000 solar panels split into three geographically-separated arrays, three large-scale advanced battery banks, and redundant generators. The microgrid is enabled by Princeton Power Systems 250 kW battery integrated inverters (BIGI), twenty of which are installed across the island to condition the power from the solar arrays and batteries, and to manage power flow between the different sources and loads. The BIGI-250 is the world’s first multi-port, DC-coupled power converter designed for cost-effective solar and battery microgrids like the one on Annobon.

The BIGI-250 operates both on-grid and off-grid and features built-in smart functions, such as demand peak shaving, photovoltaic (PV) ramp rate control and area frequency regulation (AFR). It includes a droop control algorithm that allows multiple power converters to synchronize on an AC-microgrid along with diesel generators and without dedicated communication lines between the converters. This control method allows inverters to drop off-line or communications to go down without affecting the reliability of the electric grid.

The control structure is based on Princeton’s Energy Management Operating System (EMOSTM) and four EMOS-Hub controllers placed around the island. There is one EMOS-Hub located near the mouth of the island’s inactive volcano, another near the island’s airport, one near the island’s only hotel and the fourth master controller near the southern tip to coordinate between all of the locations and support three small villages.  The island-wide microgrid EMOS controllers allow remote control and monitoring of the power system, and allows remote maintenance and software upgrades as needed.

“Today over 1 billion people are without power. We are taking our experience in microgrids from Alcatraz Island, the US Department of Defense and private sector customers to now apply it to improving quality of life for people in rural areas where grid connected power does not exist or is not reliable,” said Ken McCauley, president and CEO Princeton Power Systems.

The island-wide microgrid on Annobon will provide reliable, predictable power, supply enough electricity to handle 100 percent of the island’s current energy demand, and will be the largest self-sufficient solar project on the continent of Africa. Solar power with advanced batteries provides a cost-effective way to bring electricity to islands and remote areas with much lower emissions than fossil-fuel generators. Modern solar panels are far more efficient and cost-effective than their predecessors, and advanced batteries that can support the daily charging and discharging required for microgrid operation are just now becoming widely commercially available. The electronics and controls required to manage these assets has been demonstrated for several years in projects including the Alcatraz Microgrid.

The Annobon project is a part of Equitorial Guinea’s National Economic Development Plan Horizon 2020, which aims to make Equitorial Guinea an “emerging economy” while accelerating its development and democratization by 2020.  Along, with a much needed power supply, the microgrid will enable the development of multiple industries on the island, therefore, providing residents more jobs and significantly raise the standard of living.

Historic solar electrification project of Annobon Island in Equatorial Guinea approved

 

Annobon Island off the coast of Equatorial Guinea
Annobon Island off the coast of Equatorial Guinea

 

 

Following a very intensive biding process, the government of Equatorial Guinea has approved a solar project submitted by MAECI Solar, a division of Management and Economic Consulting, Inc. (MAECI) of the United   States.  The project was developed in collaboration with Wise Power Systems International, located in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Annobon Island solar project is historic in that it will be the largest self -sufficient solar project on the continent of Africa, and one of the largest in the world to date.  The solar installation will supply enough electricity to handle 100% of the current demand, and enough capacity for future expansion.

This project supports President Obiang Nguema’s “National Economic Development Plan” adopted in November 2007 at the Second National Economic Conference,  “Horizon 2020” .  The key strategies and reforms necessary for Equatorial Guinea to take advantage of its unique opportunity is to use its nonrenewable oil wealth to foster the wellbeing of its population and future generations.

The current population on the island, partially has access to electricity on average of 4 to 5 hours per day. These lengthy blackout periods are due to a grid based solely on diesel fuel which is expensive to obtain and to maintain. It’s also outdated which translates to supply/demand imbalances or faulty lines, which can be both unsafe and slow to be repaired.  The cost of continuing with a grid tied system based on diesel generators is generally considered cost prohibitive, environmentally unfriendly, difficult to maintain and a potential safety hazard.

As a result of less than 5 hours per day of electricity, it is estimated that households on Annobon Island, for those who can afford it, spend as much as 15% to 20% of their incomes just to purchase kerosene and paraffin for lighting as well as batteries for their small appliances like radios, laptops and cell phones.  The World Bank estimates that this expense exceeds $17B per year across Africa. One could easily estimate this cost for the remote population of Equatorial Guinea to exceed $50MM per year.

MAECI concluded that “appropriate micro grid-tied solar PV systems” represent the only viable solution when compared to alternatives such as wind, hydro, diesel generators, wood and kerosene or sub-marine cable (bringing hydro-electric power from the mainland; 300Km away) which could cost more than 3.0 billions US$.  Solar is the most cost effective, reliable, safe and readily deployable solution for Equatorial Guinea to electrify Annobon Island. Solar energy is an abundant, renewable resource that can be deployed directly at the point of use with essentially no environmental impact.

About Annobon Island, and the strategic significance:

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Annobon Province, an island of Equatorial   Guinea, measures 17.5 km2 with an extinct volcano and population estimated at approximately 5,000 inhabitants in 2011.  The island’s main industries are fishing and timber.  It is characterized by a succession of lush valleys and steep mountains, covered with rich woods and luxuriant vegetation. It has a central crater lake named Lago A Pot. A number of tiny rocky islets lie off the main island, including Santarém to the south.

Solar energy macroproject for Annobon

 

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The Government of Equatorial Guinea, through the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy, is conducting in Annobon the Project of Solar Energy as a Renewable Energy Source, which will allow island residents to enjoy clean energy. A group of national technicians is being trained to manage the plan.

This is a project formed by solar micro-networks, which had the cooperation of U.S. companies MAECI Solar, GE Power & Water and Power System.

The solar complex on which this project is based will consist of numerous 5MW panels, scalable to 10MW in the future. These panels will be managed by a comprehensive system of control and storage of solar energy.

The project has already been considered as the largest system of self-sufficient solar micro-networks of the African continent, and is particularly optimal for the Island of Annobon, which in this way can produce enough electricity to supply itself; meet the needs of the population, and the future needs of tourism, industrial and commercial activity. The province currently has power for a few hours a day; with this system their needs will be covered 24 hours a day.

-“The Electrification Project of Annobon will be the right platform for the economic growth of the island, with a much needed production of energy for the development of numerous industries and for the creation of jobs in the island,” said Chris Massaro, vice president of the company MAECI.

For its part, the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy has also stressed the importance of the project employing Equatorial Guinean citizens, and it is expected that approximately 20 national technicians will be trained, who will control and maintain the facilities.

The project is part of the National Economic Development Plan Horizon 2020 of the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

Source: Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy. Equatorial Guinea’s Press and Information Office.

United States Economic Mission meets with Ministry of Agriculture of Equatorial Guinea

In March, a United States private sector enterprise consortium, led by Management and Economics Consulting, Inc. (MAECI) undertook an economic and commercial mission to Equatorial Guinea. This mission was in response to President Obiang’s invitation for more U.S. economic involvement in Equatorial Guinea.

On June 10th – 13th, 2012, H.E. Obiang Nguema Mbasago, President of The Republic, Head of State of Equatorial Guinea, led an Economic Forum in Houston, Texas, USA.  During that forum, H.E. the President made an appeal to the United States private sector companies in attendance, to come to Equatorial Guinea to participate in the economic development diversification undertaken by the country within its economic and social development program called “Horizon 2020”.

This most recent U.S. mission conducted in Equatorial Guinea was the U.S. private sectors enterprise consortium’s response to that appeal.  The U.S. Economic Consortium represented enterprises in the following sectors: Agriculture, Healthcare, Water Purification, IT and communications, Solar Energy, Education, Transportation and Human Resources.

Members of the U.S. Delegation met with H.E. Don Miguel OYONO NDONG MIFUMU and his team from the Ministry of Agriculture.  H.E. Mifumu gave the group an overview of the current status of the agriculture sector, and explained how MAECI has been establishing and managing the current projects in the country.  Mifumu explained that Equatorial Guinea would like to be self sufficient and able to feed themselves within the next few years.  Currently, the country imports over 80% of what they consume.

The U.S. consortium’s objectives were clear. Introducing the U.S. private sector to Equatorial Guinea Officials and entrepreneurs with the goal of launching a partnership beneficial to the two parties.  Identifying the sectors of priority in the development process, the role of the Equatorial Guinea private sector in the process and how a fruitful cooperation/partnership can be established to facilitate the transfer of adapted know how, the improvement of National technical and human resources, professional education and having the U.S. private sector participate effectively in the economic development diversification process.

MAECI pledged to bring partners from the U.S. to assist the private sector that is currently struggling to develop the agriculture industry in Equatorial Guinea.  The group feels that the farmers need investment and industry knowledge.  Most farming in the United States is subsidized by the government, and it appears this type of program will be needed in Equatorial Guinea as well.

The mission was undertaken in consultation with and the encouragement of United States Governors, Congressman and Senators.

United States Economic Consortium Mission to Equatorial Guinea – Horizon 2020

 

A multi-disciplinary mission of the United States private sector enterprise consortium, led by Management and Economics Consulting, Inc. (MAECI) undertook an economic and commercial mission to Equatorial Guinea from March 9th to March 17th, 2013.

 

 

On June 10th – 13th, 2012, H.E. Obiang Nguema Mbasago, President of The Republic, Head of State of Equatorial Guinea, led an Economic Forum in Houston, Texas, USA.  During that forum, H.E. the President made an appeal to the United States private sector companies in attendance, to come to Equatorial Guinea to participate in the economic development diversification undertaken by the country within its economic and social development program called “Horizon 2020”.  In addition H.E. stated that if your company has an interest in doing business in Equatorial Guinea, to keep in mind that EG can’t do business with people they do not know, thereby encouraging U.S. companies to visit the country.

This most recent U.S. mission conducted in Equatorial Guinea was the U.S. private sectors enterprise consortium’s response to that appeal.  The U.S. Economic Consortium represented enterprises in the following sectors: Agriculture, Healthcare, Water Purification, IT and communications, Solar Energy, Education, Transportation and Human Resources.

 

The U.S. consortium’s objectives were clear. Introducing the U.S. private sector to Equatorial Guinea Officials and entrepreneurs with the goal of launching a partnership beneficial to the two parties.  Identifying the sectors of priority in the development process, the role of the Equatorial Guinea private sector in the process and how a fruitful cooperation/partnership can be established to facilitate the transfer of adapted know how, the improvement of National technical and human resources, professional education and having the  U.S. private sector participate effectively in the economic development diversification process.

The mission was undertaken in consultation with and the encouragement of United States Governors, Congressman and Senators.

Members of the U.S. Delegation with Director General Francisca Eyang Ondo and her Horizon 2020 team

The U.S. Economic Consortium attended a meeting with the Office of Horizon 2020.  The meeting was led by Director General Francisca Eyang Ondo, Director General, assisted by Ms. Manuela Oyana Ndong, Deputy Executive Secretary.  H.E. Ondo gave the U.S. Economic Consortium an overview of the Horizon 2020 initiative and current status.  H.E. described the main economic sectors of priority and reported that the initial phase was started in 2007; the program was to create an infrastructure within EG.  This includes roads, airports, buildings, harbors and power systems.  Phase 1 is well underway and nearing conclusion.  Now in 2013, phase 2 is beginning with the goal to diversify the economy and build the private sector.  This phase will run from 2013 – 2016.

The U.S. Economic Consortium was excited to hear this, as it fits directly into their own desires to bring U.S. involvement and investment into Phase 2 of the Horizon 2020 initiative.  The U.S. delegation explained that they felt the timing was perfect to start the process of introducing U.S. private sector partners to the EG market, and begin deploying these private sector subject matter experts to assist the EG private sector in growing their businesses.  The U.S. Economic Consortium stated that they represent over 20 U.S. companies, and is confident this number will grow dramatically when they return to the U.S. and make their report to these companies and U.S. government officials.

The U.S. Economic Consortium representatives were extremely impressed and thankful for the professional organization and structure of the mission provided by the government representatives.

The U.S. Economic consortium’s conclusion is that without the accelerated growth of the private sector, it will be difficult to achieve Phase 2 of Horizon 2020.  To date the overwhelming majority of growth activity has come from the Oil & Gas industry and the EG government.  It is apparent that the Oil & Gas industry will continue to have a laser focus on Oil & Gas development within EG, and won’t be able to assist in the development of the private sector, and government is not a producer, but only a facilitator.    The EG private sector appears to be ready to make this happen.

 

 

Business meeting at the Chamber of Commerce of Bioko

Economic Delegation

Pictured Above: United States Economic Delegation led by MAECI in Equatorial Guinea

At the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce of Bioko, Gregorio Boho Camo, president of the entity, received a delegation of seven U.S. businessmen, headed by Chris J. Massaro, the Vice President of the company Maeci, and composed of representatives from Philadelphia International Medicine, Leonard Karp, and the presidents of Sun-In-One New Electrical Solar Light and Power Products, William Rawheiser, and that of Flow Enterprises, Florian Kouamou, among others.

The aim of the visit of the delegation was to correspond to the invitation that the Head of State, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, made to the North American businessmen during the World Economic Forum held in Houston in 2012 to support the national private sector. The sectors that are to be analyzed and evaluated for investment opportunities in Equatorial Guinea are agriculture, transportation, human resources, technology and health.

Gregorio Boho thanked the delegation for their visit, and said that “we are open to developing the cooperation program in the sectors in which North American businessmen want to invest in Equatorial Guinea.”

The ceremony was also attended by the Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce of the Continental Region, Rosendo Ela Baby, the Director General of Small and Medium Businesses, and the Secretary of the Chamber of Bioko, among others. The delegation’s visit will be extended to the mainland.

 

Equatorial Guinea Chamber of Commerce- Bata and Private Sector meets with United States Economic Delegation

 

 

Equatorial Guinea Chamber of Commerce – Bata leadership with U.S. Economic Delegation

 

 

 

A delegation of companies from the United States on an economic mission in Equatorial Guinea, led by MAECI, visited the headquarters of the Equatorial Guinea Chamber of Commerce – Bata on Thursday.  The purpose of the delegation’s trip to Equatorial Guinea was in response to H.E. President Obiang’s appeal for assistance from United States companies in the diversification of the country’s economy, and the strengthening of Equatorial Guinea’s private sector.

The U.S. Economic consortium attended a meeting with the EG Chamber of Commerce (Bata) leadership.  In addition, the private business sector was represented by business owners located in the city of Bata.  The U.S. Economic consortium presented the concept of assisting and investing in the private sector of Equatorial Guinea.

The consortium reinforced the concept by explaining that the success of the U.S. economic growth over the past 70 years has been based on the building of the private sector.

The U.S. private sector was built and financed by private investment, Government subsidy and international joint venture.

The delegation of U.S. companies stated that they were extremely interested in partnering with the private sector of Equatorial Guinea, and will look to bring financing solutions and industry knowledge to build this partnership.

 

Equatorial Guinea Minister of Health received a delegation from the U.S.

 

Minister of Health – H.E. Tomas Mecheba Fernandez and his ministry, meeting with Philadelphia International Medicine with United States Delegation led by MAECI.

After the meeting at the Chamber of Commerce of Bioko, the delegation from the United States was received by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Tomas Mecheba Fernandez, in his office at the ministry headquarters.

Among the U.S. businessmen, there are medical specialists who have shown interest in investing in the health sector in our country.

It should be noted that this visit was in answer to the invitation extended to them by H.E. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, during the Economic Forum on Equatorial Guinea, which took place last year 2012 in the city of Houston

 

Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Equatorial Guinea meets with United States Economic Delegation

A delegation of companies from the United States on an economic mission in Equatorial Guinea, led by MAECI, visited the headquarters of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Malabo on Monday.  The purpose of the delegation’s trip to Equatorial Guinea was in response to H.E. President Obiang’s appeal for assistance from United States companies in the diversification of the country’s economy, and the strengthening of Equatorial Guinea’s private sector.

Minister of Health and Social Welfare, H.E. Tomas Mecheba Fernandez lead the meeting with the delegation and his ministry team to discuss a partnership with the United States companies,  MAECI and Philadelphia International Medicine.

Len Karp, President & CEO of Philadelphia International Medicine made a presentation to the leaders of the Ministry.  Mr. Karp discussed the desire for Philadelphia International Medicine to work with Equatorial Guinea, and their Health and Social Welfare Ministry, and serve as their Healthcare advisor.

Philadelphia International Medicine is owned by Fox Chase Cancer Center, Temple University Hospital, and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and has service agreements with Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Home Care, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital and Wills Eye Institute.  These hospital systems are world renown, and some of the highest ranking health systems in the United States.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and Philadelphia International Medicine have agreed to begin working towards a Mutual Understanding Agreement (MOU).  This relationship will bring world class healthcare to the people of Equatorial Guinea, and the country can become a regional healthcare center for the Western Central African region.

Also discussed was a trip to Philadelphia by leaders from the Ministry, as well current healthcare professionals in the country.  The trip would give Equatorial Guinea a firsthand look at one of the top health systems in the United States and the world.

U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea visits Annobon Island

 

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Over this past weekend, Mark L. Asquino, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, visited Annabon Island, and Equatorial Guinea province.

 

Asquino started off his trip with Governor Panades of Annobon Province and gave opening remarks at the US Embassy-funded youth and gender-based violence conference, focusing on reproductive health and gender equality.

 

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During his trip to the island, he also paid a visit to the Annobon Electrification Project being completed by MAECI, a U.S. company.  Ambassador Asquino visited each of the three installation sites included in The Annobon Island Electrification project.

 

This project supports President Obiang Nguema’s “National Economic Development Plan” adopted in November 2007 at the Second National Economic Conference, “Horizon 2020”, focus on the key strategies and reforms necessary for Equatorial Guinea to take advantage of its unique opportunity to use its nonrenewable oil wealth, to foster the wellbeing of its population and future generations.

 

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The solar project is historic in that it will be the largest self-sufficient solar project on the contine

nt of Africa, and one of the largest in the world to date. The solar installation will supply enough electricity to handle 100% of the current demand, and enough capacity for future expansion. While touring the solar project sites, MAECI employees briefed the Ambassador Asquino on progress already made on the project as well as future plans.

 

About Ambassador Mark L. Asquino:

 

Mark L. Asquino was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea on June 29, 2012.  Ambassador Asquino arrived in Equatorial Guinea in August 2012 and presented his credentials to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema in Malabo on October 4, 2012. Ambassador Asquino most recently served as the Executive Assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the U.S. Department of State and was a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, From 2010 to 2011, he served as a Senior Public Diplomacy Fellow at George Washington University while he Previously he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan and at the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan.   Ambassador Asquino has also served overseas in Caracas, Panama City, Madrid, Bucharest, Santiago, and Tashkent.  In Washington, he has served as the Principal Deputy Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. Department of State.  Ambassador Asquino received his A.B. and Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University.