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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid