Judex Okoro, Calabar
Relief may soon come the way of staff, students and the adjourning communities of the University of Calabar (UNICAL) as construction work has commenced on a $13 million solar power plant.
The solar plant which is courtesy of the Nigerian-German Energy partnership will, upon completion, generate 10 megawatts which will serve the university, the adjourning university teaching hospital as well as the surrounding communities who will be the offtakers.
The Nigerian-German partnership power project was conceived in 2008 during the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to enable Germany provide efficient and affordable power to federal institutions in the country.
The project marks a major breakthrough in the attempt by the university to address the problem of power which is one of the challenges militating against providing conducive environment for teaching, learning and research.
Speaking during the ground breaking ceremony held at the project site of university campus staff quarters, the German Consul General, Herr. Ingo Herbert, said the project is a major breakthrough for the Nigerian-German partnership and will secure the energy needed by the university for 24 hours a day as well as seven days a week.
Herbert stated that $13 million has been set aside by the Nigeria-German Solar Energy power partnership to be used for construction/take-off of 10 megawatts power project at the university campus.
The consul-general described power as a critical resource in a university community and said that nothing works in a university without power, adding that with the good solar radiation in Calabar the project will be a success.
“This project is the future of this great institution because everything in the university requires power. It is fundamental to education. Our commitment is to make it happen,” he said.
Speaking further on the partnership, the consul general said “it’s necessary for the university to develop its own power source because the national grid caters for 45 per cent Nigerians and provides power for barely four hours in a day.
“This solar plant will raise the quality of education in the university and add value to research and the human aspect of life in the university and its environs.”
The coordinator of the Nigerian-German Energy Partnership, Jeremy Gaines said the project is a joint venture between the university and the German government. On funding, he said the German government will finance the project and the university will pay for it from some of the money it spends on diesel.
Giving more details about the project, Mr. Gaines said, “the money the university spends on diesel will become an investment in the power plant upon completion.
“The system that we will build here will run at normal power for 25 years and it will continue after that at less than full power. It is designed in a way that the university will pay for it in installments and when they pay it off by seven years, they use it for free subsequently”.
In his welcome remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Zana Akpagu, said power has been a major challenge for the university and it has expended a disproportionate part of its income to provide power.
Akpagu said: “The university spends an average of N50 million every month and pay for NEPA. We buy three trucks of diesel every month which costs about N10 million each and our electricity bill ranges from N 18 million to N 25 million every month.
“So on the average every month, we spend about N50 million and our Internally Generated Revenue is less than N 1.2 billion. More than half of our IGR is spent on power so for us this is real salvation and it is going to be a very big relief.”
The VC, who commended the initiative of the Yar’adua government that established the Nigerian-German Energy Partnership, described the ground breaking ceremony as a major milestone in the bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Germany.
One of the off takers of the generated power and Chief Medical Director of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Prof Thomas Agan said the hospital cannot wait to take power from the plant because power is a major challenge facing the hospital.
Lauding the management of University of Calabar for the courage and vision, former minister of Power, Dr. Lanre Babalola, enjoined other universities to borrow a leaf from the institution so as to solve the electricity project which has bedevilled the nation’s tertiary institutions.