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Solar growth picks up steam across Africa

Solar Revolution - Kenya

Man fitting a rooftop solar panel. Creative Commons: UNDP Benin, 2010

From Nigeria to Kenya, Africa’s surge in renewables hints at a more diversified energy mix in the continent’s near future.

Deutsche Walle reports that one community is in the process of building a solar-powered radio station in the heart of Niger’s oil-rich delta.

Port Harcourt, a Nigerian waterfront district home to nearly 480,000 informal dwellers, will serve as home base for Chicoco Radio. As a primarily self-built community, a solar-powered radio station can serve as an independent voice for residents under the constant threat of demolition.

Michael Uwemedimo, the person behind Chicoco Radio said:

We have sun, we have wind, and so we want to harness that.

He also emphasizes the importance of access to a sustainable facility that can be used off-grid.

Using renewable energy resources can also help alleviate dependence on foreigners with substantial holdings in Nigeria’s fossil fuel sector. Local environmentalists argue that companies like Royal Dutch Shell exploit their country’s natural resources, cause devastating spills and skimp on offering substantial support for communities dealing with the impacts of their activities.

In East Africa, Kenyan officials are setting up a 40 megawatt (MW) national solar-powered energy grid, expected to be ready for use as of early 2016.

Bartholomew Simiyu of Green Energy Limited (GEL), the company working on the project, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that this solar-powered grid would “expand opportunities” for local communities by creating jobs and increasing access to electricity.

He said:

This project represents a sustainable renewable energy investment, which allows both (GEL) and the government of Kenya to take a lead in the global clean energy revolution.

Smaller-scale solar systems are also picking up steam in rural Tanzanian households. Unlike power grids — a costly investment for a country where 81 per cent of the population lives without electricity — the “pay-as-you-go solar” model is a budget-friendly alternative that minimizes dependence on government assistance for their power needs.

For Tanzanian mothers like Nosim Noah, who didn’t have electricity for 10 years despite making a decent living, home-based solar solutions come as a timely relief.

Noah said:

“[My daughter] would cry every night – every single night… it was a struggle to put her to sleep. Now, with a new light above her bed, it makes a huge difference.”

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