On the African continent, East Africa offers some of the highest solar PV potential. East Africa has a potential for 220 petawatt-hours (PWh) of solar PV annually, according to IRENA’s A study rating, which places it ahead of other locations on the continent. The potential in Southern Africa, which is thought to be over 160 PWh, is the next greatest. The analysis was based on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data mostly derived from maps of renewable energy resource locations, readily accessible meteorological information, and other geographic data such as topographical, land cover, and land use maps.
According to the study, some of the general exclusion criteria included the following in order to generate the most accurate estimate of the technological potential of large-scale solar PV:
metropolitan areas defended areas marshes and bodies of water Sloped terrain (slopes greater than 45 degrees were excluded) Commonly used for agriculture Wooded areas Areas that are farther than 200 km from the nearest city, i.e., extremely remote areas that would be associated with very high transmission costs for large renewable electricity systems, were excluded. Other factors considered in exclusions include costs to integrate the renewable energy resources to the grid.
Despite all of this potential, fewer than 2% of East Africa’s electricity comes from solar. Hydro leads the way is currently growing considerably at around 54%, followed by natural gas at about 14%, then geothermal at roughly 12%. In Ethiopia and Uganda, hydropower accounts for more than 80% of the total electricity generation mix. With the gradual implementation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will provide over 5,000 MW once finished, Ethiopia will soon have even more hydropower. With the construction of the new Julius Nyerere Hydropower Station, Tanzania will also gain roughly 2,000 MW.
Variable renewable energy sources, like solar, are positioned to play a crucial role as the focus moves to decarbonize the world’s energy infrastructure. Could the large hydropower facilities and resources in East Africa spur the use of solar PV? Through simultaneous ramp-up or decreases in hydro power output in real-time to help maintain a stable power supply to satisfy demand, these hydro power plants could assist in balancing the variable output of solar electricity. However, there are obstacles several barriers to the adoption of large-scale solar plants that need to be removed. These consist of:
Most of East Africa has a low overall installed grid capacity, which results in a low saturation for intermittent renewables. inadequate means of transmission and distribution Most nations’ networks are weak, poorly maintained, and only have a small Tandamp;D network footprint, which limits grid flexibility. little funding Numerous utilities in the areas are experiencing financial strain and are consequently not regarded as creditworthy. Regulatory shortcomings Additionally, low or absent reserve margins are a common feature of several marketplaces on the continent. This indicates that because their capacity for generating power is insufficient, some nations must practice load-shedding. Without energy storage, there are not enough reserve margins, limits the growth of utility scale solar PV . Through pumped storage and other services, East Africa’s high hydropower penetration may be able to aid with this.
Let’s hope that large-scale solar PV projects become more prevalent to help the region’s solar penetration rise and diversify the region’s energy mix. Droughts brought on by climate change are occurring more frequently, which strains the grid when water levels are low. Including solar PV could aid in managing important water resources.
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