Monday, 21 February 2011

Transforming the face of energy: solar across Asia, Africa and Latin America

Rural Energy Foundation - 2010 Ashden Awards
(Demonstrating a d.light solar lamp to villagers, Uganda)

In the second of a new series, Carla Jones highlights some ground-breaking solar projects working in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The solar PV system includes quite an exceptional little piece of kit: the solar PV module. It literally harnesses the energy from sunshine and transforms it into electricity. A solar module, re-chargeable battery, controller, lamps and wiring together make up the solar home system (SHS).

Solar 'power station' at retailers in Tororo
(pic: A solar home system on display at a retailers in Uganda)

Enterprises are bringing solar energy to communities with no access to modern energy - currently about one third of the world. They are having profound impacts on education and health and are finding creative ways to do so. They are bringing education to remote waterside communities in Bangladesh in PV-powered boats, installing solar in schools and hospitals in West Africa, improving healthcare for inaccessible communities in the Upper Amazon and bringing vaccines to remote villages in Nigeria with solar-powered fridges. Solar pholtavoltaics have the potential to take modern energy to people living far from main gridlines in a ways that are cheaper and more reliable than their fossil fuel alternatives.

Solar also helps trade. For example, consider Lesbia Sebastiana Diaz, a shopkeeper in Rama, Nicaragua who is now able to open three hours longer each day thanks to the benefits of solar lighting, earning $40 extra a day and saving on kerosene. Each SHS saves 100 litres, or $340 worth, of kerosene ever year.

SELCO - 2005 Ashden Award winner
(Solar lamps can be rented out to street vendors in India)

Above all, the best solar projects ensure that quality systems reach people in a way that is affordable and sustainable in the long-term. They set up technical colleges to train local technicians, offer micro-credit, establish savings schemes and co-operatives, develop and support solar dealers to market and expand thier products, and, embark on the local production of solar system components to boost local capacity and the local economy.

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