Solar energy use in rural Africa

The use of solar energy in rural areas across sub-Saharan Africa has increased over the years. With many communities lacking access to basic necessities such as electricity , clean water , and effective irrigation systems; the innovations in solar powered technologies have led to poverty alleviation projects that combines development strategies and environmental consciousness. Another uses for solar energy that has gained momentum in rural African households (which are some urban areas) is that of solar cooking. Historically, the high dependency on the energy of the environment has been significantly reduced. There have been recent links made between solar energy and increased food security in the region. African development projects, mostly in rural areas, are likely to be recognizing the real potential of renewable energy sources especially derived from the sun.

Solar cooking

The article by Hilde M. Toonen (2009) [1] details the efforts made by the SUPO (Stichting voor Urbane Projecten en Ontwikkelingslanden) foundation that was established in 1977; When They Began a solar cooking project in 2005 in the urban Households of the Burkina Faso city of Ouagadougou : PESGO (Program Solar Energy Grand Ouaga). The technology used was that of CooKit which is a cardboard panel cooker covered with aluminum foil. Sunrays are reflected towards a black pot which is placed in a thermo-resistant plastic bag. Temperatures from 70_C to 90_C (160 F and 200 F) can be reached. The cardboard is foldable and weighs only 500 g (1 lb.), it is easily easily stored. If the CooKit is kept dry and awaytermites , the CooKit may last for several years. Considering its durability, the CooKit seems to be a good investment: the purchase costs are lower than the money people spend on firewood. The manufacturing of the CooKit is not difficult. Solar Cookers International published a construction manual (SCI, 2007c). A CooKit can be made in one or two hours and cardboard materials, aluminum foil and non-toxic, water based glue (SCI, 2007c) (see Fig. 1). (Toonen, 2009).

Fig. 1 The CooKit

As mentioned above the CooKit aims to reduce the high dependency on firewood and charcoal for cooking purposes. but also put a strain on the finances of the individual households. However, the researchers involved in the SUPO foundation quickly realized that it could not be replaced by firewood; Jatropha plant would be the most important component of the drought-resistant alternative. The process of extraction is also very simple, where the individual needs to get the oil. According to SUPA the main reason for using Jatropha oilalong with the CooKit is due to the unreliability of weather conditions; However, there is no such thing as a stovepipe with the Jatropha oil but that one-flame cooker is simply a prototype at this stage. Solar Fryer (Gallagher, 2011) [2] and the original Solar Box Oven The CooKit example shared here is only one adaptation to solar cooking technology. Evidence has proven to be effective in the production of solar energy. it is a step in the right direction as it can be at least alleviate the pressure.

Solar-powered water purification

Purified water is a big issue facing many communities in the developing world in particular. Those in rural areas are usually too isolated for a-grid government-funded water pipe infrastructure to be built; and so the responsibility of getting into the water that they are not necessarily the purest.

In the article by Sambwa et al. (2009), [3] The authors highlight these issues and propose the integration of DC (Direct Current) Motors into solar powered water pumping technology. This is usually referred to as ‘ Technology Transfer”that the authors argue is a development concept, [that has been] conceived by the politicians and the general public in sub-Saharan Africa as the ability to purchase or acquire the equipment. These are the group of companies operating in the industry, and they are grouped as follows: many more. The authors have identified this unserviceable equipment as an inestimable source of raw materialswhere DC motors have been extracted for the purpose of being reconfigured as DC motors for driving water pumps. (Sambwa et al., 2009). The pump itself can be retrieved from washing machines or radiators of generating engines. Figure 2 below shows the end product of the DC Motor Drive Water Pump before it is connected to the solar panels .

Fig. 2 DC motor drive water pump

However, one of the main setbacks of relying on used technology is that they are more likely to be problematic to local engineers and technicians than they have been working for many years before being exported to the continent. (Sambwa et al., 2009). The project proved to be successful as it was able to pump water from a 10m deep water reservoir; aim in order to fund future projects would have to be covered by external sources. In spite of the higher production costs, the overall benefit of utilizing this technology outweighs the proposed setbacks. And what about the simplistic model, maintenance work that would arise in the future.

Solar-powered drip irrigation system

In the article by Burney et al. (2010) [4] Another use of photovoltaic (or solar-) powered irrigation irrigation (PVDI) system [which] combines the efficiency of drip irrigation[Where the] PV array powers a pump (or surface or submersible, depending on the water source) that feeds water to a reservoir. The tank then gravity-distributes the water to a low-pressure drip irrigation system. No batteries are used in the system: The pump only runs during the daytime, and energy storage is in the height of the column of water in the reservoir. An important advancement for agricultural practices in the region is related to increasing food security; The PVDI systems were integrated into pre-empting local women’s agricultural groups in the Kalalé District of Northern Benin in November 2007. The PVDI systems were designed, financed, and installed by an NGO, the Solar Electric Light Fund, [5]to boost vegetable production from communal gardens in an effort to combat high malnutrition and poverty levels in the region. (Burney et al., 2010).

See also

  • Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy
  • Energy for All
  • International Renewable Energy Agency
  • Renewable energy in Africa
  • Renewable energy in China
  • Solar for all
  • Solar power in South Asia
  • Solar powered refrigerator
  • SolarAid
  • UN-Energy


  1. Jump up^ Toonen, Hilde M. (2009). “Adapting to an innovation: Solar cooking in the urban households of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso)”. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth . 34 : 65-71. doi : 10.1016 / j.pce.2008.03.006 .
  2. Jump up^ Gallagher, Alan (2011). “A Solar Fryer”. Solar Energy . 85 : 496-505. doi: 10.1016 / j.solener.2010.12.018 .
  3. Jump up^ Sambwa, Adoko; Nwokoye D. Nnamdi & Umeghalu S. Ebelechukwu (2009). “Recycling of used DC motors as solar pumps for water supply and water delivery in rural sub-Saharan Africa”. Desalination . 248 : 586-594. doi : 10.1016 / j.desal.2008.05.106 .
  4. Jump up^ Burney, Jennifer; Lennart Woltering; Marshall Burke; Rosamond Naylor; Dov Pasternak (2 Feb 2010). “Solar-powered drip irrigation enhancers food security in the Sudano-Sahel” . PNAS . 107 (5): 1848-1853. doi :10.1073 / pnas.0909678107 . PMC  2806882  . PMID  20080616 .
  5. Jump up^ Solar Electric Light Fund: Energy is a Human Right

About the author


View all posts