i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Africa, Solar Power and Space Technologies 1

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 11, 2010

The provision of alternative energy sources to drive the machines of development in Africa, and indeed globally, is a major issue. This is further heightened by the scientific and economic possibilities that surround the commercial deployment of new technologies that use renewable energy sources as alternatives to coal and petroleum. Governments, research institutions, and private entities alike have all embarked on quests to discover, develop, and deploy efficient and renewable energy solutions.

Darling Wind Farm, South Africa. (Source: BBC News Africa)

The growth of carbon-efficient technologies has helped to fuse considerations such as cost-effectiveness and environmental impact into the primary concern of technical feasibility. Some of the options being explored include wind, hydroelectric energy, biomass, and solar energy.

In spite of its having a rich abundance of each of these energy sources, Africa still reels under the lack of energy to drive development and economic growth. This is largely because technological and organisational know-how is needed to exploit these options and most parts of the continent still fall behind in this aspect.

Africa stands at a particular advantage with respect to solar energy. The development and commercial exploitation of this resource should have long been a priority of many African governments. The space programme has long relied on solar energy to drive its exploratory missions.

SMART-1, ESA’s technology demonstration satellite to the moon, used highly efficient solar power solutions to accomplish new technological feats. See a video of SMART-1.

There are many lessons to be learned here by countries seeking to profit from the utilisation of solar energy. The hardening of spacecraft components to help them cope with the harsh extremes of the space environment can be adapted to improve the effiency of solar energy hardware deployed in desert-like conditions. Deserts are notorious for their very hot days and extremely cold nights. Hardening helps technologies deployed in harsh environments to stay efficient and deliver for much longer. If man can successfully deploy structures like the International Space Station’s solar array wings to provide consistent power supply for man’s presence in space, then nothing stops Africans from repeating something that does not come near that as a technological feat.

International Space Station showing solar arrays (Source: NASA)

Profitable exploitation of solar power is possible and needed in Africa. The technologies are available, what is needed is the political will and economic sense to drive its successful implementation. Some people are already making efforts in this direction.

A graduate of the International Space University, Ayodele Faiyetole, believes in the potential and impact of solar power. He is overcoming the resistance of his environment to deliver voltage and light to communities hitherto enshrouded in darkness and ignorance of the possibilities that the sunlight around them can bring. He recently received the Todd B. Hawley Space Visionary Award for his achievements. Read more about him here

Solar panels and solar energy options have advanced in the last few decades and the field is still growing. This is a key area where Africa can make its mark and pull its people out of darkness to light.

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2 Responses to “Africa, Solar Power and Space Technologies 1”

  1. Julen said

    Great post. I find this to be a really fascinating topic and you put a new spin on it for me. Thanks! 🙂

    • Simon Adebola said

      Thank you very much. I have also been to your site, cool! We can continue to improve the use of this abundant source of energy. Earth’s resources can surely meet the needs of its citizens.

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