Aora-Solar is rolling out its innovative "Tulip" approach to concentrated solar power in Africa, and looking to establish plants in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Kenya, according to the latest edition of the company's newsletter.
Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP)averaging between 6.6 percent and 3.1 percent growth over the past 10 years and a population expected to reach 1.9 billion by 2050.
However, only 42.6 percent of Africans have access to electricity. The figure stands at 31.8 percent for Sub-Saharan Africa, which represents approximately 599 million people who do not have access to electricity.
Large-scale energy investment, which is cost-effective, sustainable and utilizes locally available resources, is urgently needed in Africa. If the current trend were to continue, the number of people without access to electricity is expected to increase to 655 million by 2050.
The continent does, however, have vast potential for renewable energy, particularly solar, hydro and geothermal power.
With the exception of South Africa, 81 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans currently meet their energy needs from biomass.
This, however, is a very inefficient energy source, and also results in negative environmental effects such as deforestation. Investment in clean renewable energy is required to reduce reliance on biomass fuel. A possible solution is biogas, which is a significantly more efficient use of biomass that also has positive environmental effects, such as the capture and destruction of the greenhouse gas methane.
AORA Solar’s solar-hybrid Tulip technology is designed to provide clean and reliable energy for Africa to meet its development needs.
The system is unique in that it supplies uninterrupted green power 24 hours a day in all weather, the company says. Each Tulip produces 100 kW of electricity and 170 kW of heat energy as a by-product, making it well-suited for off-grid applications.
In addition to solar energy the Tulip is powered by an alternative heat source when sunlight is not available. The fuel can be biogas or bio-fuel, which can be obtained from substrates as diverse as animal waste and molasses.
The Tulip also has several additional benefits which make it uniquely suited for Africa. It is modular, with each unit capable of powering a village/small town. Once the community grows and outstrips supply, a second unit can be added relatively easily. The installation time is also very short at 6 months, meaning returns on investment can begin almost immediately.
Some components of the Tulip could be produced locally, depending on manufacturing capacity, helping to create employment opportunities. Each unit is small in size, occupying only 3,500m2 of land – a fraction of the space needed for PV solar – and the set-up can be tailored for precise power needs.
In addition to electricity, the Tulip produces170kW of heat energy as a byproduct, which can be used for many applications, including heating water for domestic, industrial and institutional use, or for “absorption refrigeration” of medicines, agriculture and livestock processing.