Solar power in Africa

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World map of 13-year averaged cloud cover made by NASA Earth Observatory
World map of global solar horizontal irradiation

Africa is often considered and referred as the "Sun continent" or the continent where the Sun's influence is the greatest.[1] According to the "World Sunshine Map", Africa receives many more hours of bright sunshine during the course of the year than any other continent of the Earth:[2] many of the sunniest places on the planet lie there.[3]

Despite the large solar potential, penetration of solar power in Africa's energy sector is still very low.[4]

Solar potential[edit]

The whole continent has a long duration of sunshine, and excluding the large areas of tropical rainforests (the Guinean Forests of West Africa and much of the Congo Basin), since desert and savannah regions of Africa stand up as Earth's largest cloud-free area.[5] Africa is dominated by clear skies even beyond deserts (ex : Sahara, Namib, Kalahari),[6] however, the regions located along the equator are considerably cloudier than the tropics and subtropics.

The eastern Sahara/northeastern Africa is particularly noted for its world sunshine records. The area experiences some of the greatest mean annual duration of bright sunshine,[7] as the sun shines bright during approximatively as much as 4,300 hours a year,[8] which is equal to 97% of the possible total.[9] This region also has the highest mean annual values of solar radiation[10][11] (the maximum recorded being over 220 kcal/cm2[12]).

The low latitude of the landmass is another asset: much of the continent lies in the intertropical zone, where the intensity and the strength of the sunlight are always high. The area contains lots of vast sun-drenched arid and semi-arid expanses in the north, in the south, and to a lesser extent in the east. About two fifths of the continent are desert, and thus continuously sunny.

The combination of all these geographical and climatic factors is the cause of the large solar potential of Africa. This gives solar power the potential to bring energy to virtually any location in Africa without the need for expensive large scale grid level infrastructural developments.[citation needed]

The distribution of solar resources across Africa is fairly uniform, with more than 85% of the continent's landscape receiving a global solar horizontal irradiation at or over 2,000 kWh/(m2 year).[13][14][15] Also, the theoretical reserves of Africa's solar energy are estimated at 60,000,000 TWh/year, which accounts for almost 40% of the global total, thus definitely making Africa the most sun-rich continent in the world.[16]

Solar photovoltaics[edit]

Declining solar equipment costs are expected to significantly increase solar installations in Africa with an industry projection forecasting that the continent's annual PV market will expand to 2.2 GW by 2018.[17] Future installations for harvesting solar energy in Africa will tend not to be found within the equatorial and subequatorial climate zones, that are located in the western part of Central Africa usually near the equator but that extend as far north and south as the 8th or 9th parallel in both hemispheres, since they are systematically linked with almost permanent cloud cover and only intermittent bright sunshine. Therefore, countries that entirely lie in this wet-humid zone such as the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Liberia and Sierra Leone are by far the least favoured in solar power of all the continent and except for these eight quoted nations, each other African country experiences over 2,700 hours of bright sunshine on at least a part of its territory. Many perpetually sunny African nations like Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Niger, Sudan, South Africa and Namibia for instance could rely on developing their tremendous solar ressources on a large scale thanks to the immense surface of their territory and at reduced prices.

A 50 MW photovoltaic power plant is planned for Garissa in Kenya, a city located at the equator where the sun is said to shine for about 3,144 hours each year on average, and it is expected to produce approximately 76,473 MWh/year.[18]

A 155 MW photovoltaic power plant is planned for Ghana, and is expected to be completed in 2015.[19]

A 75 MW solar power plant started production on September 13, 2013 in Kalkbult, in South Africa's Northern Cape (implemented by Scatec). Two other PV plants will be completed by the same company in 2014. These are located at Linde in the Northern Cape and Dreunberg in the Eastern Cape, both sun-drenched regions boasting some of the best conditions for solar power in the world. Altogether, these 3 plants will provide power for around 90,000 South African households.

There are also many small-scale modular solar power installations being implemented across the continent at the village and household levels.[20]

Year Photovoltaics CSP
MWp GWh/yr MWp GWh/yr
2010 40
2011 41


Solar thermal power[edit]

The Kingdom of Morocco’s solar plan, which is one of the world’s largest solar energy projects and estimated to cost about $9 billion, was introduced in November 2009 with the aim of establishing 2,000 MW of solar power by 2020. Five sites have been selected for the development of solar power plants combining a number of technologies including concentrated solar power, parabolic through as well as photovoltaics, with the 500MW phase one solar power complex at Ouarzazate being the first to be developed.[22][23][24] The first part of the 500MW project is set produce 160MW of power by 2015.[25] Morocco, the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe, aims to benefit from the €400bn ($573.8bn) expected to come from the ambitious pan-continental Desertec Industrial Initiative.[26]

There is considerable academic and commercial interest in a new form of Concentrated Solar Power, called STEM, for off-grid applications to produce 24-hour industrial scale power for remote communities and mining sites. STEM uses fluidized silica sand as a thermal storage and heat transfer medium for CSP systems. It has been developed by Italy's Magaldi Industries. The first commercial application of STEM will take place in Sicily in late 2015.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Griffiths, I.L. (2013). The Atlas of African Affairs. Taylor & Francis. p. 15. ISBN 9781135855529. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  2. ^ Powell, R.; Bowden, D.; Tresemer, D.; Bento, W.; Farrants, W.; Gray, B.; Dann, K.; Paul, L.; Lainson, C.M.L.; Nurney, S. (2012). Journal for Star Wisdom 2013. Lindisfarne Books. ISBN 9781584201366. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  3. ^ "Sunniest Places and Countries in the World - Current Results". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  4. ^ "A Snapshot of Global PV (1992-2015)" (PDF). IEA. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  5. ^ Daniels, S.; Lee, R. (2014). Exploring Human Geography: A Reader. Taylor & Francis. p. 425. ISBN 9781317859222. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  6. ^ "News - Thirteen years of cloud cover, in one beautiful map - The Weather Network". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Dunlop, S. (2008). A Dictionary of Weather. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191580055. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Riordan, P.; Paul G. Bourget; U.S. Army Engineer Topographic Laboratories (1985). World Weather Extremes. The Laboratories. p. 66. ISBN 9780788115370. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  11. ^ Climate and Life. Elsevier Science. 1974. p. 151. ISBN 9780080954530. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  12. ^ Wadsworth, F.H.; United States. Forest Service (1997). Forest Production for Tropical America. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  13. ^ German Aerospace Center, Institute of Technical Thermodynamics, Section Systems Analysis and Technology Assessment (April 2005), Concentrating Solar Power for the Mediterranean Region (PDF) 
  14. ^ "Free, clean solar energy year-round". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  15. ^ Solar Radiation Maps: Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI), Solar GIS 
  16. ^ Liu, Z. (2015). Global Energy Interconnection. Elsevier Science. p. 30. ISBN 9780128044063. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  17. ^ "Middle East and Africa Solar PV Demand to Grow by 50 Percent in 2014, According to NPD Solarbuzz". NPD Group. 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2014-08-19. 
  18. ^ "Chinese firms to build solar power plant in Garissa". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  19. ^ "Ghana solar energy plant set to be Africa's largest - BBC News". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  20. ^ Kemeny, P; Munro, P G; Schiavone, N; van der Horst, G; Willans, S (2014). "Community Charging Stations in rural sub-Saharan Africa: Commercial success, positive externalities, and growing supply chains". Energy For Sustainable Development. 23: 228–236. doi:10.1016/j.esd.2014.09.005. 
  21. ^ Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics until 2016
  22. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  24. ^ "IEA - 404 Not Found". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  25. ^ Reuters Editorial. "Morocco says investors lining up for $9 bln solar project | Reuters". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  26. ^ "Morocco Solar | Solar GCC". Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  27. ^ "CSP Today". Italian project shows strong potential for sand based CSP. April 11, 2014.