Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Renewables from the Rift

Energy revolution promises to transform East Africa - an excellent report by Tom Heap for Radio 4 and Newsnight. An energy revolution is taking place in East Africa as the price of solar technology tumbles and huge resources of geothermal steam beneath the Great Rift Valley start to be exploited, moves which have the potential to lift millions out of poverty and cut greenhouse gas emissions...I wish we had the drive and ambition for renewable energy that seems evident in Kenya - the UK too is rich in renewable energy potential - particularly wind, tidal and wave power - but just aren't developing it on anything like a sufficient scale and are missing out economically as a result.
The Great Rift Valley is a tear in the Earth's crust stretching 3,000 miles (4,830 km) through Africa. In places the ground smokes and sulphurous fumes fill the air.

Drill down a couple of miles and, if your prospecting is good, you hit pools of water under great pressure and heated to 230C. Stick in a pipe and steam roars out ready for ducting into power stations to turn turbines and make electricity.

At Olkaria, near Lake Naivasha, in Kenya, they have been generating some electricity for 20 years, but now there is step change. With investment of around £1bn, in a few years they will be able to produce more electricity than the country's entire current annual consumption 1,600 megawatts...
...in remote villages of Africa, a quieter energy revolution is underway which could change lives more rapidly. Seven in 10 Africans are not on the mains grid, but wires and pylons are not the only way to deliver electricity.

Solar lights are now illuminating the homes of seven million Africans and sales are doubling every year.

Harnessing the African sun has been considered before and foundered due to high cost and complexity. But in the last few years the price of technology has plummeted - solar panels, batteries and LED bulbs are now better and cheaper.

Also the need to charge millions of mobile phones has created an enormous appetite for relatively small amounts of power - the kind that solar can generate...More details and links to the Newsnight and Radio 4 programs here. Explore a wide range of renewable energy issues here.

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