Solar power could electrify sub-Saharan Africa

Decentralized solar energy may soon compete with grid-based power systems in cost and reliability in Sub-Saharan Africa. Solar energy could be the key to providing low-cost, highly reliable energy to the roughly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who currently live without power, says new UC Berkeley research published today in Nature Energy . Though electricity from “decentralized” systems — such as solar power with battery storage — is usually more expensive than electricity from state-run grids in all but the most remote locations, the rapidly declining costs of solar and battery technologies could soon make them the cheaper and more reliable choice, the researchers found. “Looking forward, our results indicate that utilities and governments in the region need to take decentralized solar very seriously — not just in remote areas, but in places close to the grid as well,” said Jonathan Lee, a Ph.D. candidate in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at UC Berkeley. “If governments aren’t proactive, they will put a lot of pressure on existing grids to significantly improve reliability and keep costs low.” The research team analyzed 10 years of solar data from NASA to calculate the cheapest ways to build stand-alone solar energy […]

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