Rural Nigeria lights up with solar power

Panels used to generate solar power Copyright: Robb Williamson/NREL

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Nigeria has launched a solar power scheme that will eventually light up as many as ten rural communities with no access to the national electrical grid.

A Lagos state government official, who wished to remain anonymous, said construction work had commenced on the respective projects and contractors were expected to start delivering them around mid to late January 2008.

Some 5,000 people — living in villages in the Badagry, Epe, Eredo and Ojo local government regions — are expected to benefit. The project’s estimated cost of 150 million Naira (about $1.25 million) is being funded by the state Ministry of Science and Technology.

The contractors for the solar power initiative are the Dynamic Treasure Chest Company, Hafas Enterprises and Impasse Technologies.

A pilot project began in May at the fishing village on Bishop Kodji Island, a low island of about 5,000 people between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lagos lagoon. For the first time, villagers have television in the community hall as well as power to the churches, mosques and schools.

Solar panels, which convert the sun’s rays into electricity, also treat water and pump it from a storage tank.

"The lifespan of the panel is 30 years according to the manufacturer. Also there is little or no maintenance: all the villagers need is to clean dust from the panels. The deep gel battery will last for 10 years," said Adenike Boyo, director of science and technology at the Directorate of Policy, Programmes and Promotion — the ministerial department that will oversee the project.

She told SciDev.Net that the equipment, although manufactured abroad, is being assembled locally.

The government of another state, Imo, in eastern Nigeria is utilising solar energy to power streetlights and other ancillary services.

Government spokesman Steve Osuji said that the innovation is coming under the current administration’s ‘Clean and Green Initiative’, whereby Owerri city and other major towns in the state are being given a facelift.

A similar government project, launched in 2002 with assistance from the Japanese government, has lit 200 rural communities in Imo, Ondo and Jigawa states as well as the capital Abuja.