200 MW of solar power has been planned for Sierra Leone, with one 20 MW installation to start it off. 200 MW of solar is a great goal, but it actually is just part of Sierra Leone’s overall target of 1 GW of clean energy development in just three years. American companies New Generation Power International, based in Chicago, and Nations Solar, located in South Carolina, are collaborating with the Sierra Leone government to implement the relatively huge solar surge, which will all be utility-scale power. (A 132 MW hydro power project will also be under taken by New Generation to help achieve the 1 GW goal.)
So, a 200 MW solar power expansion at the national level might not sound like much, but about 80% of the country’s energy comes from wood fuel and charcoal. The third largest source is imported petroleum. Clearly, one of these energy forms is a fossil fuel, and the use of all of them contributes to climate change. Air pollution also results, and it isn’t healthy for humans or any species.
The United Nations classifies Sierra Leone as a Least Developed Country. This is in part due to economic poverty and unequal wealth distribution. Contributing to the imbalance is a lack of universal access to electricity. In fact, just about 10% of Sierra Leone citizens may have regular access to electricity.
You can imagine how difficult life would be without it, but it gets worse. Lack of electricity access for many is linked to lack of Internet access. (The situation is not entirely dire; one source says mobile penetration is about 50%.)
Clean, renewable energy in the most developed countries is sort of perceived as a fringe energy source, but if a least developed nation invests in it, one could say it is infrastructure, not an auxiliary technology. It will be fascinating to see how investing in renewable energy impacts national economies, as we watch the cleantech market expand in the coming years.
Image Credit: Lindsay Stark, Wiki Commons
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