Rural Tanzania appears to be set for a very large increase in renewable power. A hybrid solar-geothermal project has been funded to the tune of $50 million dollars. Off-grid photovoltaics will be used in ten remote rural areas, and 100 MW of geothermal will be encouraged. Small-scale projects, such as a 5 MW facility in western Tanzania are already nearly finished.
In a developed country like the US or Germany, a renewable energy project that could power 70,000 homes would be large or very large and worth some celebration. In remote areas of Tanzania it is game-changing. For example, some medical clinics in western Tanzania can’t operate efficiently at night, because they do not have electricity. Doctors and nurses can’t perform at their best when they have to conduct surgical procedures by flashlight or lantern. Patients have died following such procedures. Also, spotty or no refrigeration means there are no vaccines or damaged ones. The same is true for blood transfusions.
For remote, rural students who want to do homework at night, they can’t if they don’t have kerosene for lamps. If they can’t do homework, they don’t learn as much and their grades suffer.
Tanzania is also one of the poorest countries in the world, and this status is connected to the fact that they also don’t have nearly as much electrical power available. One source stated that the average American uses 140x as much electricity as the average Tanzanian.
According to the World Bank, only about 3% of rural Tanzanians have access to electricity. About 95% are using firewood for cooking, which obviously has some perils, such as smoke inhalation and accidental fires.
So, building renewable energy infrastructure to power 70,000 Tanzanian homes in rural areas where most residents don’t have consistent access to reliable sources of electricity could have some huge benefits – for public health and poverty reduction.
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