Solar Update

diysolarelec.jpgLots of work happening at WorldChanging central on the book, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still paying attention to new developments. Here’s an update on some recent news in the world of solar power.

DIY Solar Electricity is a UK project to bring low-cost photovoltaic systems to poorer countries and regions. The small panels are intended to replace batteries, but more importantly to provide hands-on experience with photovoltaic systems for people who could adopt solar power technologies for agricultural or telecommunication systems (see below for more on solar telecom support), and to start local businesses.

The organization has projects underway across the developing world, including Peru, Mongolia, Tanzania and Somalia. The group’s work in Kenya was featured in a BBC article from last year:

British volunteer John Keane had a hunch the solar panels could be a popular product, after an earlier experience of living in a Tanzanian village with no electricity. “Everyone here seems to have a radio, but many of them don’t have the funds to continually buy batteries, as they often don’t have a reliable source of income,” he says.

Many of the young people working on the solar project have never had a job, or seen anyone in their families have a job. The average wage in Kibera is $1 a day but a small solar panel which takes just a matter of minutes to put together can sell for around $5.

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DIY Solar Electricity can also provide instructions for making a DIY Solar Cooker. (Via NextBillion.net)

Renewable Energy Access reports that the public telecom operator in Tunisia, TunisieTelecom, will be using solar photovoltaics for desert telecommunications network stations. This is a classic case of power leapfrogging-meets-telecom leapfrogging.

TunisieTelecom, the public Tunisian telecommunications operator, will build four telecommunication repeater stations powered solely by photovoltaic (PV) solar power in the open desert. In this very remote area of the Great Southern Desert, which is still not connected to the electricity grid and where the climatic conditions are extreme (temperatures in excess of 50 degrees C or 122 degrees F, sand storms, etc.), the choice of solar power was obvious. […] This project includes system installation with peak power ranging between 9 kW and 31 kW for a total installed capacity of 71 kW.

It’s a relatively prosaic project generating a relatively small amount of power, but it’s the perfect application of renewable energy in support of expanding the information and communication grid for remote communities.

Moving away from photovoltaics, the SCHOTT Solar Technology company is building a 64 megawatt solar thermal plant near Boulder City, Nevada. Solar thermal power uses parabolic concentrators to focus the Sun’s heat on a transfer medium (thermal oil in the SCHOTT system, but could also be water or even liquid sodium); the medium is then used to run a steam turbine, generating electricity.

The project will be completed by 2007.

(Posted by Jamais Cascio in A Newly Electric Green – Sustainable Energy, Resources and Design at 12:36 PM)