There is definitely an energy crisis in Africa that needs to be faced. Solar power, the use of the sun’s energy to generate electricity, often grabs the headlines. Yet there are significant drawbacks to using solar power, particularly in Africa. Hydropower is the use of moving water to generate electricity and is often overlooked, however it contributes towards nearly 20% of global electricity. As a continent rich in lakes and rivers, Africa needs to tap into their hydropower potential as opposed to focusing too much attention to solar power.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF SOLAR POWER
There are some general disadvantages of solar energy that need to be considered. The installation of solar panels is extremely expensive and solar energy storage is expensive also. If the energy is not used right away, it can be stored in batteries. However, these batteries are very costly which results in many people using electricity from the grid when solar energy is not available. Also, solar power is extremely weather dependent. This means that solar energy cannot be collected when skies are cloudy and there is little sunlight (or at night).
In Africa, giant solar farms have been built in desert regions, such as parts of sub-Saharan Africa. This is designed to reduce the installation cost. However, these larger and cheaper tracks of land are found very far from areas where the power is needed. This means that expensive transmission lines are needed to bring the power to areas that require it.
Also, solar panels in desert regions are often covered in dust, which requires a great deal of maintenance as otherwise can reduce the energy output of the solar panels.
THE ADVANTAGES OF HYDROPOWER
There are clear negatives to using solar power, both in general terms and in Africa. In contrast, hydropower holds great potential in Africa. With the world’s second longest river (the Nile) travelling nearly 7,000 kilometres through the continent, there is certainly a large water supply.
Also, hydropower offers a cheap, domestic source of power that provides multiple services. These services may include flood protection to irrigation (the supply of water to land or crops to help growth), as well as the obvious supply of energy.
Hydropower offers a clean, cheap solution to renewable energy without the limitations of solar energy. It is for this reason that Africa’s hydropower potential should be tapped into! Doing so could develop Africa’s economy to a large degree.