Week 7/2 days until travel

Dumela, everyone. First and foremost: an apology to my classmates, instructors, and any other readers for my tardiness in posting an entry. An unexpected death in the family has consumed the past week for me, and timing has been difficult with school and family matters.

But I am back in now and ready for Botswana…which is THIS WEEK! [cue celebratory exclamations]

The articles for the past week and the guest lectures dealt with alternative energy (or clean energy) policies.

So why renewable energy for Africa?

Well, there are a handful of reasons. One is due to the power rationing that occurs in many African countries. Power rationing occurs often as a last resort to conserve energy by governments during an energy crisis. This occurs, unfortunately, for many developing nations. Power rationing is interesting because it has some adverse affects that might not be immediately realized. For example, alcoholism, domestic disagreements and arguments, and effects on education. When a household can’t rely on electricity, it can’t rely on a stocked refrigerator, and will instead often dine out at night in order to avoid the dark house and take advantage of the well-lit and stocked restaurants. Or, in many cases, for men, bars. Power rationing happens all over the globe, but with alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind pumps, households will not suffer frequent government-imposed power outages as much. For many African countries, the problem with this sustainable solar energy is that it’s just not…sustainable.

Why Aren’t the Solar Projects Working?

In Botswana, one of the biggest impediments to the success of solar energy projects is the network of repair and maintenance. A pilot solar energy project was put into gear in 2003, but after only 2 years of the project’s beginning, 80% of the households unplugged their panels. Basically this solar project didn’t work. The issue? As mentioned earlier, maintenance is the leading cause. During the project, there were no local electricians or skilled solar workers to deal with maintenance requests. This left households with a 60 mile journey in order to obtain simple replacement parts such as batteries and lightbulbs, as these parts were not provided by local stores. Most universities in African countries don’t train their engineering students on renewable energy mechanics and wiring, so much of the expertise on solar panels and wind pumps are coming from international sources. The article author suggests that a team of solar experts needs to be developed and placed within the villages themselves in order to service the panels and engage in community development for the project. I think that it’s really important to train students at the African universities in renewable energy engineering and implementation so that the country and these projects don’t need to be reliant on outside sources. Instead, these countries can now rely on their own workforce, which will create more jobs, boost the economy, and reduce international dependence.


I know it was a short post today, but you can imagine, with trip preparations taking up a large part of my life right now, it’s difficult to focus on the readings when, in the back of my mind, I know I’ll be actually there, experiencing, in a couple days. Today I’m leaving you with my shower curtain—Ha! Just something I’ve had since last summer to keep track of my travels…

My shower curtain (click to get your own!)

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