A SO­LAR POW­ERED FU­TURE

Many African coun­tries re­ceive on av­er­age a very high amount of days per year with bright sun­light and hot con­di­tions, es­pe­cially in dry ar­eas. The sun is the nat­u­ral gem that is un­der-utilised even though it holds the po­ten­tial to move the con­ti­nent into

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Focus Africa | Solar Powered Future - Words: REBONE MASEMOLA

Many house­holds in Africa are still not wired to elec­tric­ity grids with coun­tries like South Africa fac­ing an en­ergy cri­sis that ham­pers eco­nomic growth. There is a lot of po­ten­tial that could emerge with a greater move­ment to­wards us­ing so­lar to gen­er­ate power into the sys­tem.

Africa has great ca­pac­ity with a fu­ture that lies in ex­plor­ing the busi­ness of re­new­able en­ergy sources, this un­der­tapped mar­ket could en­sure that the re­gion takes lead, where this in­dus­try is con­cerned. Over the years, there have been ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy, which have en­abled so­larpreneurs to tap into new mar­kets and par­tic­i­pate in job cre­ation, and this is also po­ten­tially an in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity for the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors on the con­ti­nent.

So­lar power is now be­ing iden­ti­fied by many pri­vate com­pa­nies as an al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion to the loom­ing en­ergy crises; it’s a re­new­able source that can reach a lot more peo­ple and prove to be cheaper long term. The in­ter­na­tional en­ergy agency es­ti­mates that 585mil­lion peo­ple in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa lack ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, with the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion rate as low as 14.2%. Ac­cord­ing to the World Bank, only 23% of Kenyans, 10.8% of Rwan­dans and 14.8% of Tan­za­ni­ans have ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, and the statistics are higher in other parts of the con­ti­nent. Peo­ple al­ways say the world has con­tracted into one global com­mu­nity, but there is still a big por­tion of it that’s still dis­con­nected from the ecosys­tem. “Ac­cess to en­ergy is es­sen­tial for the re­duc­tion of poverty and pro­mo­tion of eco­nomic growth. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies, ed­u­ca­tion, in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, agri­cul­tural im­prove­ment and ex­pan­sion of mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter sys­tems all re­quire abun­dant, reli­able, and cost-ef­fec­tive en­ergy ac­cess” (www.africaengi­neer­ing.com). Wind and so­lar power can be utilised in wa­ter purification, wa­ter pump­ing and de­sali­na­tion for small com­mu­ni­ties that are dis­persed and off the grid, and this could im­prove peo­ple’s way of life in big ways. So­lar is the ‘off grid en­ergy’ re­garded as a cheaper al­ter­na­tive to fos­sil-and coal gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity be­cause it’s more flex­i­ble and eas­ier to main­tain. So­larpreneurs are emerg­ing in dif­fer­ent parts of the con­ti­nent to take ad­van­tage of re­new­able sources of en­ergy and cre­ate much needed op­por­tu­ni­ties. For in­stance, Sachi DeCou from Tan­za­nia co-founded a network of so­lar charg­ing kiosks in his home coun­try be­cause he saw a gap in the mar­ket. The com­pany sells the Kiosks to other so­larpreneurs so they can elec­trify re­mote vil­lages and small com­pa­nies. Also in­no­va­tors like Jesse More who’s Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of M-kopa pro­vides ‘pay-as-you-go’ re­new­able en­ergy for iso­lated house­holds in Kenya, Uganda and Tan­za­nia. M-kopa is mak­ing mil­lions in rev­enues an­nu­ally and has plans to li­cense its tech­nol­ogy to other mar­kets. Sene­galese Amer­i­can pop star Akon also re­cently launched an ini­tia­tive called ‘Akon Light­ing Africa’ at the United Na­tions with the aim of bring­ing elec­tric­ity to at least 600mil­lion Africans who are still in the dark. He is launch­ing a ‘so­lar academy’ in Mali with the aim of

train­ing and equip­ping African en­gi­neers and en­trepreneurs with skills that can en­able them to de­velop so­lar-pow­ered elec­tric­ity sys­tems and micro grids. More young peo­ple are ex­plor­ing the lim­it­less op­por­tu­ni­ties be­ing of­fered by re­new­able en­ergy.

South Africa presently houses one of the big­gest so­lar projects on the con­ti­nent called Jasper. It is per­fectly lo­cated in Kim­berly and has been op­er­a­tional since Oc­to­ber 2014, and the so­lar project pro­duces rated ca­pac­ity of 96 megawatt-hours of clean en­ergy an­nu­ally. Jasper in­spired many fu­ture so­lar­pow­ered projects like Lesedi, the Red­stone and the pho­to­voltaic plants be­ing in­stalled in re­gional air­ports like Ge­orge, which promise to sur­pass Jasper in scale and reach. The in­fra­struc­ture could en­sure that the air­ports are self suf­fi­cient and in­de­pen­dent from Eskom’s na­tional power grid. The projects are re­spec­tively lo­cated in the East and North­ern Cape since the ar­eas boast some of the best con­di­tions for so­lar power in the world be­cause they ex­pe­ri­ence dry tem­per­a­tures. Morocco is also said to have one of the largest so­lar plants in the world with an es­ti­mated cost of $9bil­lion. If the gov­ern­ments on the con­ti­nent col­lab­o­rate, they can en­sure that all their cit­i­zens' homes and places of work are elec­tri­fied with­out en­dan­ger­ing the ecosys­tem or putting any more pres­sure on the en­vi­ron­ment. The con­struc­tion and com­ple­tion of the afore­men­tioned projects alone could cre­ate many jobs, and more will be cre­ated in the run­ning and main­tain­ing of the sites.

South Africa presently houses one of the big­gest so­lar projects on the con­ti­nent called Jasper. It is per­fectly lo­cated in Kim­berly and has been op­er­a­tional since Oc­to­ber 2014, and the so­lar project pro­duces rated ca­pac­ity of 96 megawatt-hours of clean en­ergy an­nu­ally.

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