5 Countries where Solar Power is making a Revolution

By Juan Cole | —

Developing countries of the global south don’t have enough electricity. Sometimes rural populations are only just now getting electricity. Ironically, many of them can leapfrog conventional power and go straight to solar and wind. Indeed, in the next generation, renewables will be a central element in national development.

SunEdison has been awarded a contract to build 350 megawatts of utility scale solar plants in Chile. But what is important here is that SunEdison will be able to generate the electricity more inexpensively than if it had used coal or natural gas or nuclear, and does not need any subsidy to produce this result. If this comparative cost advantage is true now, the advantage will grow rapidly over the next decade.

Coal demand will likely continue to rise slightly globally for a few years, inasmuch as the coal plants are already built, whereas most renewable energy requires up front investment. But India has an interesting idea. Its government will use taxes on coal to help fund 21 gigawatts of new utility scale solar energy! That is the rough equivalent of 20 small nuclear reactors!

Morocco has secured over $2 billion in funding for new solar energy installations. The first of 4 planned plants will go online next October and generate 160 megawatts. Morocco, which has an ambitious goal of 40% renewable energy over the next decade or so, is also planning wind farms along the Atlantic coast.

Ethiopia wants 75% of its citizens to have electricity in the near future, rather than a little over half, as is true today. As part of its push for more electricity, its government is emphasizing renewables, and there are plans for 300 megawatts of new solar power generation in the near future.

South Africa plans to double the amount of renewable energy to which it is committed in the short term, having decided to add over 3 gigawatts. The country is currently largely coal-dependent, but has suffered from brown-outs and insufficient electricity generation.

Related video:

KTN Kenya: “Farmers from arid Isiolo take advantage of Solar energy for irrigation farming”


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10 Responses

  1. aThe Koch brothers are also into solar – as long as it is produced in giant arrays which they own and control. The battle has shifted to preventing individual solar setups which the Kochs and their ilk can’t make money from. Actually the most efficient generation is small and local, but the big guys are fighting it tooth and nail and even trying to charge people who have their own panels for connecting to the grid and reverse the policy in Colorado which requires utilities to reimburse those individual homeowners who produce power back into the grid.

  2. Phoenix Woman

    Here’s a reason this is very good news: global warming predictions based on belief that poor nations won’t go solar soon. (1 of 2)

  3. Phoenix Woman

    …if poor nations avoid fossil fuels on path 2 development we have better chance of saving the earth and its inhabitants. (2 of 2)

  4. 21 GW of solar energy is not the rough equivalent of 20 small nuclear reactors, but rather of two (or perhaps three). By average a solar panel produces about 10% of its max capacity, since the sun does not shine at full brightness all the time. A nuclear reactor produces at its max about 90% of the time. Wind turbines produce by average about 30% of their max capacity.

    It would be much easier to compare different power generation technologies by energy expected to be produced per year (about 13 TWh for the 21 GW solar installation), rather than max power. The later can be very misleading when we compare different technologies.

    • Of course I made a calculation error. It should be about 18 TWh if the panels produce 10% of the max capacity by average. And 10% may be too low.

    • You can still get more power more cheaply in Chile with a new utility scale solar installation than with a new nuclear one. That is really all that matters. And the discrepancy is growing over time. Moreover, nuclear waste cannot easily and safely be disposed of, and nuclear causes warm-water pollution.

    • The average production of a mass market solar panel today is 18 %. Specialty panels for satellites etc are considerably higher. Australia has announced it has a new panel, manufactured using “off the shelf” components, making it nomore expensive than currently produced panels, producing upwards of 40%. With results tested and verified by 2 respected Australian and American university’s. Making these panels equal to, or better than the coal-oil-nuclear triad we rely on now.

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