Electric power supply is the most important commodity for national development. With electrical energy the people are empowered to work from the domestic level and the cottage industries, through the small-scale and medium industries to employment in the large-scale manufacturing complexes. In these days, depriving people of electric power is tantamount to castration. Electric power generation may be through one of the following sources of energy :- Coal, oil, gas and hydro power which are abundant in Nigeria. Presently Nigeria mostly employs gas-fired and hydroelectric turbines for bulk generation, oil being too expensive and coal-fired stations having gone moribund. Coal, the progenitor of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, is still the main source of energy in most of the industrialized countries of the world. However, coal-fired stations have the problem of pollution in the emission of carbon gases which deplete the ozone layer thereby causing global warming. Coal is likely to be overtaken by nuclear energy. Nuclear power stations have their problems of hazardous radiation and in disposal of radioactive wastes, not to mention sophistication in operation and maintenance.
The most abundant, cleanest and safest energy source is solar power, particularly in the tropical countries. The temperate countries, like France, Denmark and Japan, curiously enough, are most advanced in the utilization of solar energy. The tropical countries, like Nigeria, must invest heavily in research and development on the exploitation of solar energy, because herein lies their salvation. The viable option is a hybrid system combining wind power as fairly available at day and night, with solar thermal or solar voltaic generation which is available during the day.
The maximum solar radiation power reaching Nigeria’s land surface (area: 924,000 square kilometers) is about 600 Megawatts per square kilometre, peaking at noon and declining to zero at sunset. If only a small fraction of this power is captured, by way of wind turbine, solar thermal or voltaic generators, it would satisfy Nigeria’s needs for domestic consumption and industrialization. The Sahara desert, with a sparsely populated land area of about 9,100,000 square kilometers, receiving a maximum of about 700 Megawatts per square kilometre, is bound to be the power house for Africa if not of the world. The harnessing of solar energy by Africans is a do-or-die affair in this twenty-first century.
Maximum power consumption or peak demand depends on the population and industrialization of a country. If the maximum supply meets the peak demand, there is a surplus otherwise there is a shortfall. Supply, demand and losses are related by the equation.