Africa tackles renewable energy challenge

Nigeria’s Lagos state has taken an initiative to install more than 172 solar panels to light public schools in the region. State governor, Babatunde Fashola, launched the initiative when the first of the panels were installed at Model College. “This new initiative is a planned and an organized approach to resuscitating education from its challenges. The school will now be powered by renewable energy with very reliable maintenance and is expected to serve the college for the next 25 years,” said Fashola.
According to Fashola, this clear indication of Nigeria’s ability to leapfrog with technology is dependent on technology and electricity, “that one can buy all of the technology in the world and connect to the internet or the hotspot but what is uppermost is how to get electricity to power it,” he adds.
A similar initiative has also been launched in South Africa. GiveITback, an initiative that has dedicated itself to designing and installing complete computer labs for underprivileged schools, along with its partners Poynting and African Union Communications, donated the first of its Solar Powered Computer Labs to Umhloti Primary School in Verulam, KwaZulu Natal.
GiveITback’s Solar Powered Container Lab is the first of its kind available commercially in Africa. These labs hold 21 computers and are specifically developed to address the lack of electrical infrastructure, lack of building infrastructure, and lack of access to technology as is prevalent in many areas of South Africa, as well as the rest of the continent. The benefit of the Solar Powered Container Lab is that it allows access to IT, learning, and clean energy regardless of existing infrastructure restrictions, and has a seven-hour run life before it needs to be recharged.
Renewable energy seems to be a viable alternative for the continent.Speaking at the Africa Energy Indaba
in Sandton, South Africa, Gauteng’s infrastructure development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said, “Solar energy and energy for landfill gas are the most obvious short-term projects that we have embarked on… It will be implemented at provincial and municipal level. Solar water heaters are being rolled out to municipalities and solar street and traffic lights are being introduced. Solar panels are also being used by many government buildings in the city centre. We have also started a process of ensuring the boilers we use in our hospitals will be run by natural gas and not by coal.”
Meanwhile in Kenya, Solarcentury, one of the global leaders in solar has joined forces with local Kenyan company East African Solar to establish a bigger office in the region. The new company combines Solarcentury’s British engineering experience of delivering, operating and maintaining solar installations with local industry experience and insight provided by solar industry expert Guy Lawrence, former CEO of East African Solar. A local seven man team will aid Dr Dan Davies, Director of Solarcentury in East Africa and Lawrence to deliver solar projects throughout East Africa. In 2014 Solarcentury completed a 1-MW solar farm for Williamson Tea, a tea grower with a long heritage in Kenya.
Solarcentury is also building the largest solar carport in East Africa for Garden City, a new retail complex in Nairobi.
giveITback: tel: +27 31 826 5959;
Poynting: Melissa Gonsalves tel: +27 10 007 2020;
African Union Communications: tel: +27 12 001 8670;
Solar Century: tel: + 254 0 701 918 683;

Advantages and disadvantages of solar power
Advantages of Solar Power?
• Solar energy is a clean and renewable energy source.
• Once a solar panel is installed, solar energy can be produced free of charge.
• Solar energy will last forever whereas it is estimated that the world’s oil reserves will last for 30 to 40 years.
• Solar energy causes no pollution.
• Solar cells make absolutely no noise at all. On the other hand, the giant machines utilized for pumping oil are extremely noisy and therefore very impractical.
• Very little maintenance is needed to keep solar cells running. There are no moving parts in a solar cell which makes it impossible to really damage them.
• In the long term, there can be a high return on investment due to the amount of free energy a solar panel can produce. It is estimated that the average household will see 50% of their energy coming in from
solar panels.
Disadvantages of Solar Power?
• Solar panels can be expensive to install resulting in a time-lag of many years for savings on energy bills to match initial investments.
• Electricity generation depends entirely on a country’s exposure to sunlight; this could be limited by a country’s climate.
• Solar power stations do not match the power output of similar sized conventional power stations; they can also be very expensive to build.
• Solar power is used to charge batteries so that solar powered devices can be used at night. The batteries can often be large and heavy, taking up space and needing to be replaced from time to time.