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09.05.2013 Editorial

Let's Have Regional Solar Plants

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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Credible media reports have it that the Volta River Authority (VRA) is about to inaugurate its first solar PV electricity generating plant in the country.

Based at Navrongo, in the Upper East Region, the solar power plant is a 2 megawatts (mw) facility, said to be the largest PV grid in West Africa, and one whose capacity can be increased to 2.5mw.

Built at a cost of US$8,082,025 million, the Navrongo solar power plant is part of the VRA's long term strategic policy to diversify into renewable power generation in an efficient, cost effective and sustainable manner.

The reports quote a top VRA official as saying that a mix of renewable energy portfolio - wind, mini-hydro and solar - put together since 2010, was expected to produce a total of 160mw of electricity by 2015, comprising 150mw from wind, and 14mw from solar.

And according to the VRA Chief Executive Officer, Kwaku Awortwi, apart from the Navrongo plant, three other sites have been identified and acquired in the Upper West Region for the construction of the next phase of 12mw PV plants to complement power generation, with funding already secured.

The Chronicle finds laudable this first public indication of our public servants waking up to the reality to harness the comparative advantage of our immediate environment, with savings to the national purse.

The first solar energy generating plant, coming a good 56 years after independence, is totally belated. Have we just realised that we can generate power from the sun which wastes away daily?

First, President Kwame Nkrumah may be forgiven for concentrating on hydro power in the late 50s and early 60s. Solar technology was probably in its rudimentary stages, but, not so our rulers since the 80s, if not earlier.

But, better late than never. That is why The Chronicle would call on the VRA to drink deep or touch not.

Having woken up to its potential, we should embrace solar energy with both hands and feet.

To begin with, we should have at least one solar power plant in each region, and gradually expand into the districts.

All that one needs to get started is the initial capital to acquire the photovoltaic cells, unlike say a regular petrol thermal plant, where one needs to regularly find money to buy diesel or gas to power it.

This amounts to zero running cost. Solar PV plants, unlike solar thermal plants, which need transfer fluid and water to generate steam to drive a turbine, convert sunrays directly into electricity.

That is the way forward. Let us embrace it fully!

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