Solar power: the fix for Africa's frustration with the grid?
As solar power becomes more affordable and efficient, it could spread in Africa, much in the way cell phones took over without widespread infrastructure, writes guest blogger Alex Thurston.
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Such efforts have continued. And here’s a recent profile of a private company, SolarNexus, that is attempting to spread solar in Africa by selling a “contained system of solar power generation that can be installed relatively quickly and easily.”Skip to next paragraph
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The idea of solar power generation becoming more efficient and affordable, and solar panels become smaller and easier for individuals or small communities to own and operate, makes me think immediately of the rapid spread of cell phones in Africa, a spread that occurred without (in many countries) a widespread landline infrastructure in place. Similarly, the trajectory of electrification in India, Africa, and elsewhere is not necessarily following that of the US or Europe.
I am neither a scientist nor an engineer and thus I am in no position to evaluate how solar stacks up against other power sources at present. But from a political and societal standpoint it seems to me that many people who lack reliable electricity and rely instead on intermittent government power or gasoline-powered home generators, as well as people who don’t have electricity at all, would switch to solar if the equipment was cheap, available, and effective.
Finally, solar’s growth could have interesting effects on relationships between citizens and governments in countries like Nigeria and Senegal, where spotty power is a frequent source of popular anger. Cheap solar could assuage that anger, or it could – especially if solar equipment is provided primarily by private companies – simply reinforce a sense that governments are impotent and corrupt.
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