Sub-Saharan Africa needs electricity, and a coalition of more than 100 private-sector partners, host-country governments and multilateral organizations began working to meet that need after President Obama announced the Power Africa initiative in June 2013. Lining up financing, engineering, permits and partners is complicated business, but some projects are already bringing light, computers and information into African homes.
Check out these snapshots of progress in the past two years:
Solar for Rwanda
A field of mirrors in the shape of the African continent began soaking up the sun to bring electricity to Rwandans in February.
The field, the first of its kind in East Africa, aims to provide 8.5 megawatts (MW) of power. Gigawatt Global, a Power Africa partner, led the financing, construction and interconnection of the facility, which cost almost $24 million.
“Our project proves the viability of financing and building large-scale solar fields in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Gigawatt co-founder and director Chaim Motzen when the project launched. “We hope that this solar field serves as a catalyst for many more sustainable energy projects in the region.”
The solar field is expected to provide Rwanda with grid-connected power to supply 15,000 homes.
Geothermal in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is one of the few places on Earth where the searing power of the planet’s core seeps up to the surface. Power Africa partners are developing geothermal energy to provide electricity to as many as 2 million homes.
Rift Valley Geothermal, the Ethiopian government and Reykjavik Geothermal are the lead partners in the Corbetti Caldera Geothermal Project. That’s Reykjavik as in Iceland, the world’s leader in development of geothermal energy.
This 500MW facility will become the largest geothermal facility in Africa. Beyond the potential output, Power Africa coordinator Andrew Herscowitz says the way partners launched and coordinated the project could allow energy investors to see similar potential elsewhere.
Biomass in Kenya
The mathenge weed (also known as mesquite) has become an invasive species in Baringo County, Kenya, but it might light the future with a biomass power plant under development by Power Africa partner Cummins Cogeneration Kenya Limited.
The facility will convert plant-based material into energy with a gasification technology process. Cummins aims to provide electricity for more than 12,000 homes, an important step forward in an area where 90 percent of the population has no access to electricity.
Using the invasive weed for fuel means the CCKL project will transform a nuisance into a resource and will open up more land for agriculture, thus increasing food production.