Africa could very much use a boost to its electricity generation and distribution. According to the World Bank, about 25 sub-Saharan African countries have rolling blackouts, only 24% of Africans have access to electricity, and electricity can be expensive, even though many people are poor.
At the same time, African nations typically have plenty of sunlight. So, with millions of poor people living in rural areas with no grid access, it only makes logical sense that off-grid solar would be a viable option and opportunity. (You can imagine what a deprivation having no or unreliable access to electricity would be.)
A nonprofit in Berkeley, California, We Care Solar, helps get electricity and electric lights to areas in Africa that lack it, and specifically for medical situations. For delivering babies, and for sudden serious illnesses and injuries, having a rechargeable light source can save many lives. Off-grid solar systems can be used to power and to recharge medical lights.
Amboseli National Park
This Kenyan park is 151 square miles and is within a larger ecosystem of 8,000 square miles. Here you can find 400 species of birds and free-ranging elephants. Lions, zebra, cheetahs, giraffes... many wild animals live in the area along with the Masaai.
A safari camp there is using a pay-as-you go solar power system to generate electricity, instead of using the conventional way (which is to use diesel fuel to run electricity generators).
The economic benefits are significant. "The 46.6 kWp solar system, designed to replace the 27,000 litres of diesel previously used by the camp to power two generators, will reduce carbon emissions by more than 72 tons per annum. Furthermore, the solar system provides power to the camp on a per unit basis at a rate never more than the cost of the generator-supplied power that the camp used to use. This cost includes the diesel, generator maintenance and depreciation."
Tortilis Camp only pays for the electricity it uses. NVI Energy owns it and another company, Harmonic Systems, maintains it. 190 solar panels provide electricity, and any excess is banked in an 11 ton battery system. One thing about such a system that is very appealing is that the fluctuating cost of diesel fuel can be punishing to a small business. Sunlight is not tied to a global petroleum market, so once a small solar system has been installed and is operational, one only has weather to worry about. A green electricity generating system also fits the safari “back to nature” image very well. Put it this way: would you rather stay in a safari camp running on diesel or solar power?
1 Million Homes
On a much more expansive scale, there is the one million homes project in Tanzania. A company called Off Grid Electric is collaborating with the Tanzanian government to bring solar power to millions of people in just several years. These systems only require very small monthly payments from Tanzanians that otherwise probably would not have regular access to electricity. The boost in quality of life the solar power systems provide will be worth much more than what they pay.
Image Credit: Amoghavarsha.com, via Wiki Commons