The Future of Solar Farming in Eritrea

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Reports suggest that all new energy production in Eritrea could be from renewable sources by 2030 and all existing generation could be converted to renewable energy by 2050, if deployment is backed by the right public policies.

By GeoGroup,

ERITREA is blessed with a vast solar energy potential. Everyday, most parts of the country receive 7.5 – 8 kWh of solar energy per square meter. Eritrea’s deserts and farmland are amongst the sunniest in the world, and thus suitable for large-scale power production.

The Eritrean government should embrace favourable tax structures and consider providing financial resources to fund projects to put up community solar farms as part of their energy development programs.

To meet all its energy needs, Eritrea should diversify its energy mix by accelerating the use of all forms of renewable energy technologies (including PV, thermal solar, wind power, biogas and hydro) and more proactively promote energy efficiency.

Such “free” source of electricity can be used to supply the energy needs of homes, farms and businesses.

Through the use of photovoltaic (PV), concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) or concentrated solar power (CSP), sunlight is converted into electricity that can provide power to businesses, homes and drive motors.

A decline in solar panel prices over the last two years also has contributed to exponential increases in solar deployment worldwide and lower project costs. A new technology that also holds promise is CPV.

CPV uses a concentrating optical system that focuses a large area of sunlight onto the individual photovoltaic cells. This feature makes CPV panels two to three times more efficient (approximately 40 percent) at converting sunlight to electricity as compared to silicon-based PV (15 to 20 percent) and thin films (9 to 13 percent).

Major cost reductions will be realized through mass manufacturing. The steep increase in system efficiency, combined with decreases in manufacturing costs could levelize the cost of energy for CPV at around $0.10/kWh by 2015. Cost reductions are so dramatic that Bloomberg recently reported solar energy could soon rival coal. The cost has become so competitive during peak times in Japan and California that the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot goal of $1 per watt for large projects by 2017 may happen a lot sooner.

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In our opinion, all new energy production in Eritrea could be from renewable sources by 2030 and all existing generation could be converted to renewable energy by 2050, if deployment is backed by the right public policies.

Solar energy represents a bright spot on Eritrea’s economic front. If Eritrea makes a massive switch from oil power plants to solar and other renewable sources, it is possible that 100 percent of Eritrea’s electricity could be from renewable energy by 2050. Solar energy would require the creation of a vast region of photovoltaic cells in the North West and Central parts of the country that could operate during the day. Excess daytime energy can be stored in various forms such as molten or liquid salt (a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate), compressed air, pumped hydro, hydrogen, battery storage, etc., which would be used as an energy source during night-time hours.

Solar energy will be competitive with coal as improved and efficient solar cells, CPV and CSP enter the market. WE predict that solar farming advancements and growth would empower Eritrea’s rural economies and companies will move their operations from urban areas to rural areas due to cheaper land and labour within the solar belt.

Solar farming is a renewable source of energy and the greenest form of commercial energy.  Solar energy has become the leading alternative to the costly and eco disasters associated with fossil fuels. We urge the government of Eritrea to accelerate the country’s solar energy expansion plans and policies by implementing government subsidies for residential solar power through renewable energy rebates and feed-in tariffs. Solar farming is a great concept for an efficient use of barren land and the ideal way to develop large utility scale solar energy farms to meet Eritrea’s economic development goals.

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ALSO READ : Farming Community in Eritrea Benefiting from Solar Pumping System
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Solar energy is a game-changing prospect for Eritrea. The nation must accelerate and encourage the domestic development of renewable energy now. It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will to achieve this goal to eliminate our wasteful spending and dependence on foreign sources of energy. The Eritrean government should provide favourable government policies to ease the permitting process and to provide start-up capital to promote the growth of solar energy. State and central governments should provide initiatives and other support in order to increase solar power plant capacity. Solar energy is a win-win situation for Eritrea and the environment, and has the potential to power Eritrea’s economy, create millions of new jobs and change the face of Eritrea as a green nation.

“Bumper harvest was obtained across the country thanks to last year’s [2014] abundant rains, coupled with soil and conservation activities undertaken by farmers.” – Minister of Local Government