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October 08, 2013

The University of South Hampton Is Bringing Sustainable Electricity to Rural African Communities



The University of Southampton is working on an international project that will provide a sustainable electricity to rural communities throughout Africa.

The projects goal is to establish and implement replicable, off-grid electricity generation, based on a solar photovoltaic storage system, that will promote development in sub-Saharan Africa.

The five-year project called the"Replication of Rural Decentralised off-grid Electricity Generation through Technology and Business Innovation" is a multi-institutional research program. It is funded by the Research Councils UK and the UK's Government Department of International Development.

Over a five year period the program will develop a community-based mini-grid solar electrification system. The system will be aimed at invigorating village trading centers by providing a electricity source to businesses. It will also charge electrical appliances, lighting and mobile phones for the rest of the community. 

This project is the brain child of the Kitonyoni village market solar project, which was established in 2012 in Kenya. The project looked to displaced the use of kerosene for lighting in homes and businesses because it is expensive and has negative health effects. 


image via physorg

"We estimate up to 3,000 local people can now benefit from electrical energy provided by the project. The school, health center, churches and the 40 businesses have round-the-clock stable electricity, allowing them to extend their working hours and provide additional services such as information technology training, tailoring, hair dressing as well as the charging facilities. Additionally, the solar canopy of the PV system was designed to act as a rain collector, enabling water storage and sale by the cooperative to the community throughout the year," said Professor AbuBakr Bahaj, the head of the University's Sustainable Energy Research Group and a principal investor in the $2.6 million dollar project.

This month the team celebrates its first year of operation on the project, which has transformed the lives for many villagers. The project has become a bit of a tourist attraction in Africa having many local and international visitors from Japan, Germany, UK, Zambia, the World Bank and other funding agencies.

"The transformation of trading centers is very clear: land prices have more than doubled, at least five new buildings have been completed, new businesses started, businesses' income has in most cases more than doubled and most importantly, a new maternity ward is now operational. The challenge now is to reduce capital costs and embed the concepts and models in other communities. The latter is now being done in a second project in Kenya, another in Cameroon, with other projects being planned in Mozambique and other African states. There is now strong interest from governments and the private sector to adopt our approach, as well as from international funding agencies, to provide substantial funding to support the concept on a larger scale," said Professor Bahaj.




Edited by Ryan Sartor

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