Today’s indicator figure is 73.1 trillion
73.1 trillion of what?
Today’s indicator is 73.1 trillion kilowatt hours, or the amount of solar power potential in East African Community (EAC) countries per year using photovoltaic technologies.
What do you mean by solar power potential and photovoltaic technologies?
Solar power potential is an estimate by the International Renewable Energy Agency of the total amount of land that is suitable for solar power production and could be made available for generation of electricity to sell to the National Grid.
Solar power potential is determined by surface area, climate and geographic positioning as all of these factors influence the ability of sunlight to reach solar panels placed at ground level.
Photovoltaic technologies are made from semiconductors, or complex electronic circuits, that transform light into electricity using solar panels. Solar photovoltaics are the most common form of solar power generation in use today.
What are some things that this amount of sunlight could provide power to?
Electricity is typically measured in kilowatt hours or kWh. One kWh of energy is equal to 1000 watt hours and will power a 100 Watt light bulb for 10 hours (100 watts x 10 hours = 1,000 watt-hours = 1 kWh).
73,100 trillion kWh is a significant amount of electricity, equal to 91 times the productive capacity of the 20 largest power plants in the world. It is enough to power a single 100 Watt light bulb for 83 billion years or 41 billion years of charging your average smart phone battery from zero to full power every single day.
Electric cars are increasing in popularity and the Tesla Model S is considered by many as the most advanced electric car consuming 85 kWh per every 496 kilometers. With 73,100 trillion kWh of electricity, every person alive today could circle the planet Earth at the equator more than 46 times.
In a larger context, the entire world consumes approximately 20,793 trillion kWh of electricity per year and EAC’s solar power potential could power the entire world’s annual energy needs for over 3.5 years.
Which EAC country has the most and which the least solar power potential?
Tanzania with its large land mass has by far the most solar power potential in the EAC, ranking at 38.8 trillion kWh. The next highest is found in Kenya with 23.0 trillion kWh, nearly 40% less than the leader. On the lower end, Uganda’s solar potential is measured at 9.5 trillion kWh. Rwanda and Burundi have similar potential at less than 1.0 trillion kWh each.
How does this amount of solar power potential compare to the remainder of the world?
Within the continent of Africa, the East African region has the highest solar potential.
However, on a country basis, South Africa and the Sudan have notably the highest solar power potential with 42. 2 trillion kWh and 87.8 trillion kWh respectively.
Is this solar resource becoming more or less valuable to EAC countries?
Solar power is becoming more practical as an energy source option and therefore more valuable.
Solar panels can be placed either on the ground, competing with agriculture or mining for land use, or placed on rooftops of buildings and homes making productive use of the clear sky above.
The cost of producing and running large solar power generation systems has dropped by some measures over 90% over the past several years making solar power more accessible and therefore far more valuable.
In what way can this much energy potential affect the economies of East Africa?
Energy is a critical part of the economy, both directly and indirectly supporting economic activity.
Manufacturing, transportation, business transactions, communications, production and logistics will all be strengthened with better energy access.
Increased inexpensive power will increase the viability of other services offered in these areas which will, in turn, contribute to stronger economic growth across sectors.
What is being done now to use these resources from the Sun?
In EAC countries there has not yet been a widely accepted framework and fixed regulations for selling solar photovoltaic power to the national grid, so solar potential is largely being developed in the Off-grid Solar Sector.
The Off-grid Solar Sector involves mini-grids, home systems and smaller units like solar-powered lanterns or phone chargers.
Increased involvement of solar energy focused companies and multi-lateral donors combined with the rapid decrease in battery storage costs should result in increased grid-tied solar power generation projects in the EAC in the upcoming months and years.
What opportunities exist for people investing into the solar industry?
Currently solar power is a deflationary good so interested parties seeking increased energy generation and access need to balance waiting for lower costs versus first mover advantages.
That said, some early movers are already seeing strong business and investment growth.
For example, d.light a global solar lantern and systems company with Africa headquarters in Kenya has raised over $37 million USD in four financing rounds including investment from legendary American venture capital firm, Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
A bit larger solar systems can be found in Tanzanian solar home system service company, Off.grid Electric, has raised $58 million USD in four separate financing rounds owned by organizations founded by billionaires Elon Musk and Pierre Omidyar of Tesla and eBay fame, respectively.
At the village level, Kenyan mini-grid solar company, PowerHive, has publicly announced a $20 million USD series A financing round and adoption of Advisory Board members, actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, and British House of Lords member Gregory Barker.
Demand for electricity in the EAC is high and increasing. There are dozens of off-grid solar companies raising money, working with bi-lateral donors, and serving EAC customer needs in both urban and rural districts using a wide variety of business models.
How can I learn more?
To learn more about the topics in this article you can visit…..
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) – Estimating the Renewable Energy Potential in Africa – http://www.irena.org/menu/index.aspx?mnu=Subcat&PriMenuID=36&CatID=141&SubcatID=440
International Energy Agency Key World Energy Statistics -https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/key-world-energy-statistics.html
About the authors:
David L. Ross is Managing Director of Statera Capital and US Ambassador to the Open University of Tanzania active in growing companies in Eastern and Southern Africa through primary investment, investment advisory, strategic partnerships, and executive education. Connect on LinkedIn at http://tz.linkedin.com/in/davidlross1 or at [email protected]