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Thursday, 3 September 2009

Solar Power

If someone told you that there was a way that electricity could be produced for all, using a 'fuel' that Nigeria would never run out of, is currently abundant in and is currently not using, what would be your reaction?

Well, solar energy-fueled solar panels (or photovoltaic cells) are just that, maximising the use of a resource in which Nigeria is abundant in because of its geographical location. This can only seem like a fantastic idea (and it is), addressing the issue of electricity production in Nigeria.

A non-profit organsination called S.E.L.F.; the Solar Electricity Light Fund has been working towards bringing solar power and internet access to those who are in areas of poverty across the world, for example; the thousands of villagers in the rural parts of Nigeria. SELF is a charity which was founded by Neville Williams in 1990, which initially started by using the funds acquired to build several Solar Home Systems (SHS) one village at a time, as the years progressed SELF has become more like a information and resource point, informing villagers on how to provide solar energy for their villages and acquire the materials and knowledge.

SELF projects are based on three principles refering to their SID (Solar Integrated Development) model:

SELF-Help: Which allows the villagers to take control of their project, so that they are fully in charge and involved.
SELF-Reliance: Solar systems are purchased by the villagers in the community themselves.
SELF-Determination: Villagers and users of the system are trained so they have the knowledge required to maintain the systems themselves.

In Nigeria, the SELF project has already begun, even since 2006 some solar installations were laid in place so that villagers could finally have an electrical supply. Those same villagers were able to watch television in their village for the first time.

The reasons as to why solar systems unlike other electricity-producing systems are very suitable for rural environments such as villages are:

1. The intial input cost of installing a system can easily be recovered from the savings made through self-generated electricity.
2. It is also friendly towards the environment, designers and leaders are moving towards the ideas associated with sustainability and renewability. Villages have the chance to make better decisions unlike much more developed settings where there is already a heavy reliance on non-renewable electricity-generating sources.
3. The systems are independent of any national gas or electrical grids, which means that it is not only less costly to instal compared to extending the national grid, but it allows the villagers to have continous electricity event during a power outage of the main grid.
4. The solar energy systems are very low-maintainance, they may require cleaning every once in a while.
5. They operate silently as opposed to noisy fuel operated generators that many Nigerians currently rely on.

Disadvantages include the fact that the solar energy systems have high initial purchase costs, the amount of electricity generated also depends on the amount of sunlight the panel receives and another issue is that the panels must cover a significant area in order to produce a practical level of efficiency.

From balancing out the pros and cons it is obvious that the use of solar panels would be very beneficial to a country like Nigeria, where there is no problem with obtaining sunlight. The panels if endorsed by the government could really help to alleviate the current situation with energy; specifically electricity production.

In future maybe every household will have solar panelled roofs so they can produce their own electricity supply, giving Nigerians not only control but a reliable and sustainable form of producing energy for their families.

Image from wikipedia

By Tumi Jegede

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