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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid