Thursday, July 24, 2008

Answer to Mike's Question

Most electricity is diesel, but are there any renewable energy projects in your area? I saw an awesome post somewhere about building a solar and wind powered communication network somewhere in Africa.

Nope. In the South a lot of the power comes from the hydroelectric dam in Ghana but the North isn't connected to that grid and it's 100% diesel. There is such high demand for electricity in the South though that they had to implement rolling blackouts pretty much everywhere. To help relieve the pressure they've decided to connect the generator in the North to the grid in the South since it's not being used to full capacity yet (it was originally designed to power the entire country of Ghana before they built the dam - it's huge).

The government made a pledge to bring electricity to every regional capital and though I'm not sure I think they've got it done already. In any event, electricity is relatively widespread and it's just not cost-effective to use renewable energy since prices are subsidized. I don't know if it will make sense when they drop the subsidy (which they're about to do due to the diesel shortage).

I've been to a couple of health centers in villages that did have government-bought solar panels but they were only powerful enough to run the radio. The refrigerators they have to keep vaccines cool are run on kerosene. Anyone who can afford solar panels already lives where there's electricity so it doesn't really make much sense to buy them.

As for the communication network, it's not really that necessary. There are tons of cell phone towers in places without electricity which are run on diesel generators. Cell phone companies are just that profitable apparently.


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