It’s funny that those that have the least peak sunshine hours a year in Europe are the ones leading in the Photovoltaic Industry. Currently European photovoltaic companies have achieved an average annual production growth rate of over 40 %. Currently the turnover of the photovoltaic industry amounts to some EUR 10 billion. Support for the research, development and demonstration of new energy technologies is available through the EU Framework Programme (FP) for research. Through a series of research FPs, the European Commission has maintained long-term support for research, development and demonstration in the photovoltaic sector, providing a framework within which researchers and industry can work together to develop photovoltaic technology and applications.
Everyone who is considering a solar system will never ignore the impact it has on their pocket. There is only one cost of solar, and that is the startup cost. Once purchased, there are no additional running costs. They do not have moving parts, so they cannot breakdown. Once the PV system has been installed it will continue to convert sunlight into electricity. Because most of the costs are paid up-front and the benefits flow in over 25 to 30 years, it is important to account for the fact that a dollar saved tomorrow is not worth as much as a dollar saved today. Depending where you are from the cost of a PV system ranges in their thousands, in the US a typical $12 000 system generates about 3,400 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Dividing the annual cost by the annual output would give 29.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. But with increasing technology and government subsidies, the cost is expected to go down. Telling that to a folk who is paying 15 cents per kilowatt-hour in Zimbabwe, 16 cents in Nigeria, 12 cents in Malawi, 8 cents in Uganda because of a government subsidy of 80% and I tell you that we have an uphill task. Even though it is the electricity that they don’t always have and here is a technology that can accord you power all-day long. Coupling Solar technology with the use of LPG/Natural Gas, efficient lighting and solar water heaters will make the problem of blackouts and unreliable power supply a thing of the past.
A UK based company called Solynta Energy which has been vocal in sub-Saharan Africa especially in West-Africa informed me that averagely for a 1kW System with installations costs US$5 230. This system is able to produce 57 000kWh of electricity in the 25 years. The system has replacements to be made and these include replacing the invertor after 10years and battery after every 5years and this comes at a cost of US$5 776. Diving the cost with the power produced the cost per kWh becomes 19cents. They went further to say that their technology can accommodate from a single room to a factory; the panels will continue to produce without limit because the sun is the most powerful source of energy on earth. The only limit present is the available space since the average home has sufficient roof space to generate 4 times the amount of energy it requires. South African born and now US based Elon Musk who I have great respect for says’ “people don’t realize that the earth is already solar powered”. To that effect his company SolarCity has solar systems for leasing with no down payment. What the people will do is pay monthly bills for the lease for 20 years to SolarCity which in this case lower than the average power station. He envisages solar as the future plurarity which means more from solar than any other source, well he made that word up.
So in the next issues I want to be talking about natural gas and biogas in our African context and success stories in North Africa.