SOLAR ENERGY: THE FUTURE OF KENYA


SOLAR ENERGY: THE FUTURE OF KENYA

In April the government of Kenya kicked off its ambitious project meant to provide solar energy and cash transfers to over a million Kenyans in 47 counties with pilot projects starting in Kilifi and Garissa counties. The Swedish government is funding the ‘project dubbed Mwangaza Mashinani’ program with the sole aim of ensuring that most vulnerable people in the country are not left behind as homes are connected to solar power.

The first beneficiaries to the project are Kilifi and Garissa counties which have already received US $1m donation from the Swedish government to pilot off the mega project and is expected to be fully implemented in a year’s time. Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Anna Jardfelt, who witnessed the launch, said the electricity from the project is meant to reach to the poorest communities.

Mrs. Jardfelt explained that it took them along time to identify the two counties because there was a criteria they were using to establish the households and communities that were to pilot the project.This, she added was made possible with the help of UNICEF. Regional Development Ms. Jardfelt said in the pilot phase, 1,500 households from the two counties are set to benefit. She further revealed that after the launching, they will evaluate the project in one year’s time to see how it has worked out and if it will have succeeded they will also reach out to other counties.

Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi and his Garissa counterpart Abdi Dagane witnessed the launch and later signed an MoU on the project. Mr Saburi said that they are delighted with the project as the targeted area is a remote one which never expected such kind of development. Over 30,000 people in Kilifi County will benefit from the Mwangaza Mashinani project.

With such a positive development it is intriguing to evaluate what the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy are if someone decides to invest in it?

Solar energy is derived from the sun’s radiation. The sun is a powerful energy source, and this energy source can be harnessed by installing solar panels. Did you know that the energy it provides to the Earth for one hour could meet the global energy needs for one year? However, we are able to harness only 0.001 percent of that energy.There is a reason why solar energy has become a trending topic when talking about renewables. While it has been widely criticised for being expensive or not very efficient, solar energy has now proved to be extremely beneficial – not only for the environment but also financially speaking.

Advantages of Solar Energy


Renewable Energy Source


Among all the benefits of solar panels, the most important thing is that solar energy is a truly renewable energy source. It can be harnessed in all areas of the world and is available every day. We cannot run out of solar energy, unlike some of the other sources of energy. Solar energy will be accessible as long as we have the sun, therefore sunlight will be available to us for at least 5 billion years when according to scientists the sun is going to die.

Reduces Electricity Bills


Since you will be meeting some of your energy needs with the electricity your solar system has generated, your energy bills will drop. How much you save on your bill will be dependent on the size of the solar system and your electricity or heat usage.

Diverse Applications


Solar energy can be used for diverse purposes. You can generate electricity (photovoltaics) or heat (solar thermal). Solar energy can be used to produce electricity in areas without access to the energy grid, to distill water in regions with limited clean water supplies and to power satellites in space. Solar energy can also be integrated into the materials used for buildings. Not long ago Sharp introduced transparent solar energy windows.

Low Maintenance Costs


Solar energy systems generally don’t require a lot of maintenance. You only need to keep them relatively clean, so cleaning them a couple of times per year will do the job. If in doubt, you can always rely on specialized cleaning companies, which offer this service from around £25-£35. Most reliable solar panel manufacturers offer 20-25 years warranty. Also, as there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear. The inverter is usually the only part that needs to change after 5-10 years because it is continuously working to convert solar energy into electricity and heat (solar PV vs. solar thermal). Apart from the inverter, the cables also need maintenance to ensure your solar power system runs at maximum efficiency. So, after covering the initial cost of the solar system, you can expect very little spending on maintenance and repair work.

Technology Development


Technology in the solar power industry is constantly advancing and improvements will intensify in the future. Innovations in quantum physics and nanotechnology can potentially increase the effectiveness of solar panels and double, or even triple, the electrical input of the solar power systems.

However on the flipside Solar Energy has several drawbacks;


Cost


The initial cost of purchasing a solar system is fairly high. This includes paying for solar panels, inverter, batteries, wiring, and for the installation. Nevertheless, solar technologies are constantly developing, so it is safe to assume that prices will go down in the future.

Weather Dependent


Although solar energy can still be collected during cloudy and rainy days, the efficiency of the solar system drops. Solar panels are dependent on sunlight to effectively gather solar energy. Therefore, a few cloudy, rainy days can have a noticeable effect on the energy system. You should also take into account that solar energy cannot be collected during the night. On the other hand, if you also require your water heating solution to work at night or during wintertime, thermodynamic panels are an alternative to consider.

Solar Energy Storage Is Expensive


Solar energy has to be used right away, or it can be stored in large batteries. These batteries, used in off-the-grid solar systems, can be charged during the day so that the energy is used at night. This is a good solution for using solar energy all day long but it is also quite expensive. In most cases, it is smarter to just use solar energy during the day and take energy from the grid during the night (you can only do this if your system is connected to the grid). Luckily your energy demand is usually higher during the day so you can meet most of it with solar energy.
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