Kalahari Desert – the solar energy alternative

The amount of energy from the sun that falls on Earth is staggering. Covering a full 84 percent of Botswana’s land area, the semi-arid Kgalagadi terrain dominates most of the country and can be harnessed for megawatts of energy power put to good use. Large collections of interconnected solar panels that work together to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity on a grand scale are called Solar Farms. Like the Solar Mini Grid solar farms can be large facilities owned by power companies or a small array set up on private farmland. In either case, the power generated is sold to electric companies for distribution throughout the power grid. Solar energy is clean, renewable and has vast potential.

If a concentrated solar power system was built that was a hundred kilometres by hundred kilometres square in size out in the Kalahari Desert which has some of the best solar resources in the entire world, or you covered 1 percent of the country’s land with PV, either strategy could be more than enough to meet the country’s entire energy demand. Greenhouse free. Photovoltaics are advantageous because they do not require water, which can be an understandable advantage in the desert. Also, the best places to build solar farms are typically in the desert, far away from the population centres that need the most electricity, often meaning that new power lines have to be raised. Costs have always been a major limiting factor in the development of solar farms. Large-scale operations have cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but prices are expected to drop as technology improves. Land use is another concern. Scaling the electricity demand in this nation against the costs it is better for government to inject funds setting up solar farming projects that will facilitate electricity as South Africa – Eskom will be ending its supply to Botswana in 2013.

Naol investments Solar Technology Coordinator, Tshepo Nthoiwa, says they specialise in creating green jobs and green wealth for every Motswana. The company has a vision to embark on a Kalahari Solar Farms project.

"We believe that Renewable Energy (RE) has become a viable option for Botswana and is the ultimate answer to our country’s contribution towards our impact on climate. We see the accelerating growth of RE, and the growing recognition of its importance in many parts of the world and we want Botswana not to be left behind. There are many technologies out there that will provide part of the answer to our long-term sustainable energy needs and all of them will need people to fuel their industries’ growth. We have chosen the route of thin-film Photovoltaic solar cell," he said.

Due to the relatively easy process of manufacturing thin-film solar, our plan is to set-up a plant for the manufacture of these cells as well as their assembly into solar modules, he said.

"Due to the simplified nature of our proposed system, we believe Naol and Partners can play a crucial part in this infant industry either by setting-up a silicon processing or silicon slicing plant that can then supply other local companies for the final assembly of solar. In addition, more local companies can further be engaged to provide distribution and the installation and maintenance of the solar systems.