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Right Time for Ghana to Develop and Promote Solar Energy
 
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30-May-2011  
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Even when there is, at present, no problem with the water level of Ghana's Akosombo Dam, power failure still exists in the country. A week never passes without a cut in power from the national grid. Everything comes to a standstill when power fails.

The break is so sudden and powerful that electrical appliances in many homes are broken. The government must begin to think seriously on how to make energy sufficient in a more efficient way. With the discovery of oil, the government must direct more resources towards investing in solar energy systems. It is expensive for an individual to install the systems that provide solar energy. A self-contained house of between three to six bed-rooms will cost around 15,000 dollars to have solar energy as initial outlay, according to DANIDA whose efforts are directed towards providing solar energy in many houses in the North where sunshine is an abundant gift from God.


Our government needs to take a more serious look at solar energy. Once the solar project begins, organisations like USAID, SHELL, SIDA, DANIDA and FINIDA can be called in to help. The Nordic countries have a record of pursuing positive development in the developing countries even when it comes to promoting and developing solar energy as DANIDA is doing in northern Ghana. Shell has also produced solar energy for fifteen thousand homes in South Africa. What we need in Ghana is a radical change in power policy. There is the need to privatise energy production and distribution so that the responsibility of importing solar panels and accessories will not be the sole duty of the Government. Towards that end, government can establish an autonomous body closely linked to National Utility, (the organisation responsible for the nation's power control, water supply and sanitation). The government must appoint knowledgeable people who understand the benefits of solar and other forms of energy on this body.

Sun power is an abundant and renewable form of energy that produces zero carbon emissions. Its impact on the environment is minimal. Solar Energy uses solar panels to provide electricity for homes and industries. Modern solar panels are a combination of magnifying glass and fluid-filled pipes. These are specially made to focus the power of the sun on the pipes behind the panels. The pipes carry a special fluid that heats up rapidly. They are painted black to absorb the heat. A roof is built to protect the reflective surface which, in turn, protects anything behind the solar panels.


The solar panels have photovoltaic (PV) cells which transform sunlight into electricity. PV cells come in many sizes and a variety of technologies. They can be mounted on a surface like wood. PV cells are fragile and therefore must be protected against physical damage. The PV cells must be wired together to create a solar array which will move on a single array.

Hydro-power dams are becoming a thing of the past. Some countries are breaking down their hydropower dams. In Ethiopia, for example, a campaign was launched which caused a break in the construction of a massive dam on the Omo river. Western countries have few months of sunshine, but they are even putting up and promoting solar energy. Sadly enough, all the governments that have come and gone in Ghana have closed their eyes to solar energy and still continue to build another dam at Bui. We live in a country where birds and lizards playing on electrical wires can join the wires together and cause power failure! What is worse, Bui Dam is being built on a national park which is home to many endangered species of animals.

Many people will be forced to leave their farms and homes. Where will they go? There is no gainsaying the fact that hydro-electric power is still very important, especially for a poor country, despite its environmental problems. We still need dams in Africa as long as we don't build them haphazardly without any extensive cost-benefit analysis. We need not destroy any dam in Ghana and so much must have already been sunk in the Bui Dam that a cessation may not be advisable. But we must move from one stage of progress to another one which is more stable and environmentally harmless. Solar energy may be costly to build but it provides clean and cheap energy. There must be a smooth transition to other energy sources like solar and wind energy.

This is now the right time for any caring and serious government to capitalise on the oil wealth to explore other sources of energy which are more sustainable and more environmentally friendly. The money coming from the oil production may not be much but if the government will put its priorities right it will be able to dare an investment into the research, production and development of solar energy which will give a lasting hope for homes and industries. Ghana is geographically well positioned to receive sunshine throughout the year. If the sun's energy, which we have in abundance, is fully tapped, it can provide Ghana a very reliable and permanent source of electricity supply.


Ghana depends a lot on hydro-energy but this has never been sufficient for our needs. That is why, in recent times, additional energy is being created by means of thermal plants at Aboadze. When the Bui Dam is fully functional, we will not have the capacity to build more dams. There will simply be no more rivers to be dammed even if we want to. But the energy needs of the country, inadequate as they are now, will only increase with the increased growth in the population and the increasing need to industrialise and provide the people with their basic needs. The need for sources of energy other than hydro and thermal cannot be greater than now.

If Prof. Mills makes solar energy one of his major ambitions and formally launches a solar project before his term ends, he will win the hearts of many. What Ghana needs is concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies for the market. This will permit the construction of solar plants of up to 160MW generating capacity in the near future. This can provide electricity for the entire cities of Accra and Tema and even beyond.


Those who will be directly responsible for the solar project in Ghana are ministry of energy, National Energy Foundation, Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other public and the private enterprises which will be responsible for importing solar panels and accessories.


The present level of solar technology in Ghana is nothing to write home about. The increase in interest throughout the world spilt over to Ghana. When crude oil importation took a great chunk of the country's foreign exchange, 700 solar systems were installed around the '80s. But they became white elephants and no government in power took the promotion of solar energy seriously because none of them had any defined policy. Since Ghana cannot use nuclear technology for its electricity needs, efforts should be made to promote and develop solar energy. Indeed, the very survival of the country's industrial future, depends on it.


 
 
 
Source: Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu
 
 

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