Solar Vitality Brings Promise, Challenges to Sahel Area – New Delhi Occasions

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Solar Energy Brings Promise, Challenges to Sahel Region – New Delhi Times

The African Development Bank held a virtual conference on solar energy in the Sahel this week.

Experts from the AEMP (African Energy Market Place) forum say the vast semi-arid region that divides the Sahara to the north and the tropical savannas to the south has high solar energy potential, but poor infrastructure and funding continue to pose challenges.

Maman Sambo Sidikou, executive secretary of the G5 Sahel, said in Abuja that countries – including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – are not using solar energy as they should.

With a cumulative gross domestic product of nearly $ 53 billion and much of the territory benefiting from stable and consistent sunshine, the G5 Sahel is the ideal region to demonstrate the power of solar energy, Sidikou said.

Challenges

However, installing solar energy not only requires solar panels, but also batteries, inverters and power regulators. The knowledge of qualified technicians is required to maintain and repair the network.

This is a challenge in the Sahel, where there is a lack of infrastructure.

Grégoire Gailly, who manages the Green Business Area program at Geres, a non-governmental organization fighting climate change and global warming, said that many solar energy products have been sold in recent years, but the quality is not always there.

And sometimes, he added, the installation is not done well because some electricians are not trained in these techniques.

Access to the necessary materials can also be difficult, especially in rural areas.

In addition, the upfront costs keep solar energy financially inaccessible to most of the population.

Power outages

Yanick Kemayou, the founder of the Kabakoo Academies, a learning space in Bamako, Mali, knows the benefits of solar energy firsthand.

The building that houses Kabakoo was purposely built in one of the poor, dense neighborhoods of Bamako to be accessible to the entire population.

In poor areas, Kemayou said, blackouts are even more common than elsewhere.

Kabakoo Academies is now 100 percent solar powered.

“When we started Kabakoo, we were actually there,” said Kemayou. “However, we found that we had productivity losses of up to 70% in the rainy season, because like six to seven out of ten planned activities, planned workshops and boot camps had to be canceled due to power outages.”

Power outages are a major problem in all countries in the G5 Sahel.

Generators

However, for those who have the means to pay for solutions, solar power is not yet widely accepted as a viable solution to frequent blackouts.

Many prefer to buy generators which, like investing in solar energy, are expensive.

“Why are people still buying generators in Bamako, Mali, these days? This is a big question and I have to admit I don’t have an answer, ”said Kemayou. “I would like the answers. It seems that the population and the people here would know that solar energy exists. “

Aside from the challenges of building a solar energy grid, most countries in the G5 Sahel are also grappling with an ongoing Islamist uprising.

Mali faces political instability as former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was overthrown in a coup in August.

This year’s AEMP focus on the Sahel was part of the African Development Bank’s Desert-to-Power Initiative. The aim of the program is to develop 10 gigawatts of solar energy and supply 250 million people with green, clean electricity by 2025.

Photo credit: Voice of America (VOA)

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