News / Africa

Senegal's Shining Solution to Blackouts

Prosolia technicians Mamadou Ba, left, and Mouhamed Diedhiou install solar panels on a vocational school in Dakar, Senegal, Dec. 1, 2011.
Prosolia technicians Mamadou Ba, left, and Mouhamed Diedhiou install solar panels on a vocational school in Dakar, Senegal, Dec. 1, 2011.

It's still early on in Senegal's nine-month-long dry season and, as usual, there's not a cloud in the sky. In a West African nation where growing energy demands far outweigh supply, such abundant sunlight, some say, is the obvious solution to crippling power cuts that result from its aging infrastructure.

Senegal's rolling power outages hinder progress in many sectors, especially in the administrative and financial capital of Dakar. But today a Spanish solar-power company, Prosolia, is installing panels on a vocational school that prepares youth for the city's booming construction industry.

According to Yerogallo Kamara, the school's director, when power goes out, students stop studying.

"They are dependent on electricity at the school, and if the outages persist, the program will be at risk and that will reflect badly on them through the upcoming examinations," says a translator on Kamara's behalf, adding that the traditional solution to this problem has been gas-powered generators, which can be heard intermittently throughout Dakar and the rest of the country.

The generators are essentially miniature versions of the ones used by Senelec, the government-owned utility, which means they are subject to the same steadily rising fuel, maintenance and distribution costs that make solar power an attractive supplement to, or replacement for, traditional sources of energy.

A question of viability

Luc Severi is the general manager of Solar Now, a Dutch company that provides solar energy to individuals in rural communities, which comprise the majority of Senegal's population and the majority of Senelec's problems.

"There is a consensus that electrifying everyone with the national grid is not an option because it's economically not viable," he says.

Explaining that 65 percent of the population is off the grid, Severi says solar can provide the demographic a cheap, clean source of energy that is produced on site.

For Senegal's Sahel region, he adds, solar would prove an especially cost-effective solution.

"Over the course of one day, you've got 5 1/2 hours that you get maximum capacity from the sunlight," he says. "In other countries - for example, in Europe and in the States, that's between two or three, sometimes four hours."

Legislative obstacles

The country's political climate seems equally conducive to solar power. In December of 2010, Senegal passed a law aiming to produce 15 percent of total energy by renewable production methods, and there are currently about 50 solar-power agencies already within its borders vying for a piece of the promising market.

But the market's prohibitively high cost of initial investment is forcing disproportionate growth. To combat this, most companies have formed credit plans, and Prosolia recently signed a marketing protocol with the Banking Company of West Africa to finance solar power systems.

The other major obstacle, according to Severi, is lack of good information about solar energy in Senegal.

"Often people have never heard of solar energy or what they have heard is wrong, which is actually even worse because it's hard to go against the popular beliefs," he says.

Educating the public

Solar Now and other companies have launched campaigns to educate the public about solar energy, but nothing works better than visibility according to Mamadou Sow, CEO of Sustainable Power Electric Company (SPEC). The Senegal-based company recently fulfilled a government contract to provide solar-powered street lamps in a densely populated area of Dakar.

"There is now more awareness among people all over Senegal that there are alternative sources of power that must be considered and that solar energy can play a role in providing a solution to Senegal’s chronic power shortages," says a translator on Sow's behalf.

Senelec, the state power utility, could not be reached for comment, but Sow, who hopes partner with the company, has spoken with representatives. Although it is only a supplemental energy source now, he says, the state power company recognizes the potential of solar and will likely invest in the future.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More