- Power failures occur all-too-frequently in Africa
- Research and education operations suffer from unreliable electricity
- Solar-powered rechargeable batteries could bring resilience to NRENs
It’s hard to imagine that in our technologically advanced society that there are people without electricity, but this is exactly what happens in many parts of Africa.
With many remote regions and an unstable electrical grid, the science and education made possible by national research and education networks (NRENs) are often in jeopardy. Solar-powered batteries might just be the solution.
Electricity, education, and research in Africa
It is estimated that millions of families in Africa are without power, and the policies the government must enact to make electricity more available are slow in coming. Finding a viable and economical way to connect everyone to the grid has been a challenge.
Electrical service disruption directly affects network operating centers (NOCs), network point-of presences (PoPs), research institutions, and students throughout the continent.
“Information and communication technology (ICT) services define our daily lives,” notes Stein Mkandawire, chief technical officer for the Zambia Research and Education Network.
“Funding standby generators for daily running of NOCs, PoPs and institutions is required, and that results in high service provision costs.”
Even in less remote locales with an electrical infrastructure in place, blackouts occur frequently. The net result is an extreme hindrance for the scientific and educational projects underway in Africa.
“Power outages often worsen the challenges faced when establishing NRENs in Africa because periods where power mains fail in excess of two days are still common,” says Isaac Kasana, CEO of the Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU).
advances in technology, solar-powered rechargeable batteries now make renewable energy systems reliable and viable.
“Many African countries have plenty of sunshine which can be used as alternative source of energy, so solar energy is a means to sustain the NRENs in times of blackouts,” says Mkandawire.NIH station at Rakai), solar-charged batteries may provide the most cost-efficient means of powering connectivity and other ICT equipment, says Kasana. “This will increase an NREN’s national coverage by enabling the connection of remote research stations and enhancing access for researchers who have to be based at such remote sites.”
By supplying countries with a reliable source of power from solar, African NRENs can send a steady stream of services to institutions, research bases, and communities. This in turn, gives better access to learning materials.
The benefits of solar power
There are many affordable options for families in Africa to bring electricity through solar power into their homes. Using apps on their phones and equipment they can buy at the store, they can power their homes for less than $60 per year. Several places have already started using solar power — it provides electricity to areas that desperately need it, creates jobs, and furthers research and education.
An education is one of life’s most precious acquisitions. But without the resources needed to teach and learn, knowledge-creation stalls.
Solar power is brightening the future of science and research in Africa.