Solar energy

Solar energy

solar panels

Energy shortage is commonplace in Africa, yet the continent benefits from hours of sunshine daily - can the solution lie in solar power?

Scientists are now looking at the potential of a process called Concentrating Solar Power to generate large amounts of energy, that can feed into a grid.

The Science

This technology uses fields of mirrors to reflect sunlight on to a water tank, feeding into a steam-powered turbine.

It is still very expensive to deploy - the biggest prototypes are located in the United States and Spain - and would cost billions of dollars to develop on a continent-wide scale.

To find out more about the potential in Africa for this source of energy, Pete Lewenstein spoke to Dr Gerry Wolff, an engineer and coordinator of Trec-UK, an organisation that supports research into and development of Concentrating Solar Power.

Listen 4 mins 00 secs

In practise

Well so far just two African countries have begun to explore seriously the potential of Concentrating Solar Power, Morocco and Algeria.

In Morocco, work on a solar energy plant, in the Saharan desert near the town of Ain Beni Mathar, has already begun.

The hope is that eventually solar technology, and the energy of the sun in the Sahara, can be used to provide electricity for most of the region.

Our Morocco correspondent James Copnall travelled to the site of the new plant.

Listen 5 mins 13 secs

South of the Sahara

There's plenty of sunshine south of the Sahara too - so could this be utilised in the same way? Dr. Ifeanyi Amajuoyi runs a Nigeria company called Nkubadorf that is looking for renewable energy alternatives for Africa.

Uduak Amimo asked him if this new technology could be used to provide electricity to Nigeria, and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa?

Listen 3 mins 02 secs

Africa Energy Week: Monday - Fossil fuels, Tuesday - Solar energy, Wednesday - Hydro & wind power, Thursday - Biofuels, Friday - Nuclear power

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