In Ghana, wind power is being developed to help provide rural communities with electricity. The effort is led by two non-profit organizations, Enterprise Works Ghana and Rural Energy and Environment Systems. VOA English to Africa reporter Joana Mantey tells us that by using local expertise and materials, project leaders hope not only to enhance energy generation, but put money into the pockets of local artisans as well.
There was a time when the village school at Kpenu in the Volta Region of Ghana went silent under the cover of darkness; a time when students worked by the dim light of hurricane lamps and television was an unheard of luxury for villagers.
Not anymore. The installation of a locally made wind turbine on the campus has changed all that. In the words of the technical advisor to the project, Wisdom Togobo, the provision of wind-generated electricity has given new life to people of the village.
That includes school children, who have an opportunity to experiment with a computer donated by a Canadian NGO. The Sogapope District Assembly has also donated a television set to the school, which serves as a rallying point for both students and people in the community.
?If you visit the school at night any time from 6 pm, you?ll see the entire community gathered around this TV to watch news and other entertaining programs. At the moment three of the teachers have acquired mobile phones. That has made work easier for the monitoring team. They can use the electricity to charge their phones. Because of that you don?t always have to drive there to monitor. You only have to call a teacher, ask him a few questions and you are able to instruct him as to what to do.?
This may not have been possible had the village school depended on the government.
Kpenu is far from the main source of energy in Ghana, the national electrification grid. The high cost of connecting off-grid communities, coupled with the long list of villages waiting to be served, means Kpenu would have likely had a long wait. Indeed, 48% of rural communities are yet to be connected in Ghana.
Now, an initiative from the private sector on wind-generated energy is paving the way forward. It?s part of a program funded in part by the World Bank called ?Fighting Poverty.? It combines skilled artisans and the abundant supply of wind to make simple turbines. The local craftsmen make the wooden blades for the rotating fans, and the 10-foot high base upon which the turbines stand.
Today, it is not only the school at Kpenu that is reaping benefits from the project. Mr. Togobo said some households and farms in other communities are making gains as well. He said in some places dry cell batteries are used, for example, for listening to the radio, and are no longer rationed. This is possible because batteries recharged from the turbines are now available.
He says others are participating in the project as well, including a student from the University of Science and Technology (UST) in Kumasi.
?We had one student from the UST who did his masters thesis on this project and has come out with very interesting results which has really helped us. There is also a house at [the village of] Afiadenyigba, it?s a small salt industry where this project provides its basic lighting needs.?
However the program was not without challenges. Togobo said they faced a number of problems in the initial stages.
?Most of the systems were made from iron, and we did not coat them against rust. When it gets rusted the system ceases to operate. Another problem included the inability of the [wind turbines to handle] local storms but we have been able to get the local manufacturers to [make turbines to] withstand such storms.?
Yet another problem is that two years after the start of the project, it still remains at the pilot stage. This is due to lack of funds to install more turbines. It is also uncertain whether the artisans trained to manufacture and install the turbines are making money as planned.
Ken Ahadzie is a beneficiary of the free training program but how much money has he made so far?
?Well it wasn?t so much. But it was something reliable to depend on. It was about two million cedis.?
Two million cedis, or one hundred and eighty US dollars, may not be much but with more financial backing from donors or the government, Ahadzie could become very busy constructing the inexpensive electricity generators. And who knows, one day, every house in Kpenu and other villages of the Volta region may enjoy electricity, and even televisions.
Let us know what you think of this report and other stories on our website. Send your views to AFRICA@VOANEWS.COM, and include your phone number. Or, call us here in Washington, DC at (202) 205-9942. After you hear the VOA identification, press 30 to leave a message. We want to hear what you have to say!