The Continent of the Sun

The Continent of the Sun

Editorial Staff
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In compliance with its commitments to addressing climate change, new projects and investments in solar power are growing and proliferating throughout Africa. The continent lends itself perfectly for the task, therefore this resource is expected to develop strongly

The use of solar power in Africa has been growing at an increasing rate. To date, according to the UN, it is estimated that there are now approximately 600,000 families using solar panels to generate energy and that this figure will most likely grow exponentially throughout 2017, with an increase of between 60 and 100%.

Africa can rely on a continuous and exceptional flow of sunlight, which can be used to generate electricity and for heating applications; it is also a type of energy that can be exploited on a large scale and this factor makes it suitable to the entire African community, for both industrial scale operations and for widespread residential consumption. Given the high level of availability of this resource, two types of technologies for generating solar power have been developed: photovoltaics and CSP. The former is used globally, while the latter is typically a technology used to implement large-scale projects, especially in desert regions. CSP, better known as Concentrating Solar Power technology, converts radiation from the sun into heat energy via a concentrator, subsequently transforming it into electricity. This specific process enables energy collected to be modulated, consequently making it largely advantageous. Partly due to the advancement of technologies, the growth of this energy resource has, in recent years, been exponential; starting from a very low level, in 2014 it reached a capacity of 1,334 megawatts, ten times higher than the capacity in 2009 (127 MW). South Africa is driving this rapid growth, having added almost 780 MW between 2013 and 2014.

Senegal at the forefront

The Ten Merina and Senergy #projects could replace #oil plants with #solarenergy plants

The tendency to exploit energy from the sun is not limited to domestic use. Throughout Africa, investments in this sustainable resource are becoming more consistent. In north-eastern Senegal, the start of works is planned, for 2017, for the construction of a huge photovoltaic power plant, with a capacity of 30 MW and funded with approximately $44 million. The project will be called ''Ten Merina'' and will be built in the Thies Region. Also in Senegal, a few kilometers away from the future ''Ten Merina'', a plant known as ''Senergy'' has already been built, which should become operational by the end of this year. Senegal, like other African countries, is seeking to honor its promises made during the recent UN conferences on climate change held in Paris (COP21) and Marrakech (COP22). The idea is that the Ten Merine and Senergy projects will be able to replace oil installations with solar power plants. At the same time, there is an increasing number of solar panel installations in the continent capable of producing electricity, even in very remote areas that cannot be reached by the public electricity network. Despite the increased use of solar energy, many families, if not entire tribes and populations, are still forced to resort to fuel for energy, which is very harmful to the health of those who use it daily, as well as highly polluting.

Photovoltaics in Africa: a more extensive project

In recent days, Israel’s Gigawatt Global inaugurated its second solar park installed in East Africa: the company also launched the first solar plant in Rwanda in 2015 and is also one of the founding members, along with the former U.S. president, Barack Obama, of the United States Power Africa Initiative, founded in 2013. The program aims to increase the power generation capacity by over 30,000 MW via clean energy sources and to increase household and business connections in the great African continent. Other companies are investing in the same sector: Off Grid Electric, Bboxx and Azuri Technologies, all confident in doubling the number of their customers within a short period of time. However, the green initiatives launched in the continent are continuing. Among these many projects, in recent months, those which stand out are the launch of the first photovoltaic plant in Uganda, organized by Building Energy and the investments of King Mohammed IV of Morocco in the international platform of research and training in solar energy, ''Green Energy Park'', the first of its kind in Africa which will bring resources together, create synergies and make Morocco a leader in the renewable energy sector.

Given the high level of solar energy availability, two types of technologies have been developed in Africa: photovoltaics, universally used and CSP widely used in desert regions