Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination of the two (Wikipedia). The Sun has been a constant source of imagination and learning to humans for centuries. Furthermore, the determination of Time, Dates and Seasons are classical examples of how early civilisations made use of the Sun.
Over the ages, we discovered new ways to harness energy from the Sun. Cooking, Drying and Preservation (heat), Plant growth (photosynthesis) and Bone development (Vitamin D) are some popular examples. Eventually, our evolution to clean energy, sustainability and technology led to generating electricity from the Sun using inverters.
This technology is not a new phenomena in Nigeria anymore. The ubiquitous drive towards sustainable clean energy has found a home in Africa. This is especially prevalent in Nigeria where constant reliable power is in short supply. Presently, solar panels and inverters are embedded in street lamps, residential roofs, commercial farms and tricycles (keke). This has significantly boosted the economic and productive capacity of Nigerians.
For instance, imagine the financial benefits solar powered tricycles would offer to small business owners and commuters. Alternatively, how solar powered home lamps have eliminated the need for traditional kerosene lanterns. In addition, think of the ability of the government to provide 24hours uninterrupted power by balancing coal, hydro and solar.
Future of Solar Powered Technology
Initial investment in this form of renewable power isn’t cheap. However, it is important to note that the cost of producing solar power is rapidly declining as compared to coal power. This is why many communities are taking advantage of this price drop to fit themselves with modern sustainable power sources.
For instance, a rural community in Ogun state recently installed an 85kw solar grid. By embracing a solar-powered minigrid, this community is set to vault past much larger urban areas in terms of reliable access to electricity.
Another factor creating the need for investment in solar is Nigeria’s environmental advantage of constant sunshine. These panels achieve peak performance on clear, sunny days which is over 65% of the time every year.
Of all the drawbacks affecting its installation and usage, none has been challenging to address as financing. Anyone considering building a mini-grid would have to find money to pay for both the panels and batteries required to generate and store electricity as well as the compulsory poles and wires to distribute it to homes and businesses.
While this renewable source of electricity might possibly be the best and only solution for electrifying Nigeria, developing the power sector through its adoption has been fraught with a lack of technically competent designers and installers.
According to a major installer in Lagos, Nigeria “There are all these dead solar systems all over the place that have given people the impression that the technology doesn’t work, and it’s usually due to shoddy installation work.” These major challenges make it impossible for mini-grid developers to attract investors and therefore bring about a revolution in the Nigerian power sector.