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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs