2015 has been a particularly significant year for solar, seeing a dramatic drop in the price of solar panels, along with the refining of advantageous public funding models.
Why Solar Energy
Power outages have been a persistent problem in Zimbabwe for more than a decade now. Power cuts have become a way of life and people have learn to adapt to life without electricity. It is a hard life, one full of uncertainty and great inconveniences. Think about working on an assignment and you haven’t saved your work and the power goes. How about an undisclosed fault that leaved the neighborhood without electricity for a week, all the meat in the fridge rots. If you have been in Zimbabwe or have family in Zimbabwe, you will know about the ZESA woes.
The government in a bid to find solutions for the constant power problems have set to launch the solar water heating programme aimed at encouraging the 250 000 households with electricity geysers to consider switching to solar geysers or retro-fitting. The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has installed 425 solar mini-grid projects, at rural health centres, schools and chiefs’ homesteads across the country. REA has also distributed 437 solar mobile units countrywide.Solar is now catching up in Zimbabwe. A drive down Enterprise Road, is testament that the solar revolution has finally arrived, as you see a well lit road with solar powered lights.
Now, if you are tired of your changing appliances and gadgets failing because of power outages, or you are just tired of using a solar lamp or candle or missing you favorite shows on tv, going of the grid is for you. Below are some reasons why solar is a good option.
- Lots of Sunshine
Zimbabwe’s climate is ideal for solar. Most areas in the country average more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, among the highest in the world, thanks to its Equatorial position. The more light the panels receive, the more electricity they generate and they work on cloudy days too.
Although initial costs of installing solar energy are high, the return on investment is well worth it on so many levels. Solar pays for itself ZESA tariffs continue to go up and electricity bills are astounding even though there are so many power cuts.
- Power Cuts
ZESA has a monopoly and will do not have any regard for customer. Businesses have been crippled by ZESA power cuts. Should your area have a fault with a transformer, there is no telling when the fault will be resolved. For companies this means loss of revenue. Businesses have had the worst end of the stick, with products going bad leading more losses in revenue.
A desire to use less energy and make as much as possible from renewable sources. Solar doesn’t rely on constantly mining raw materials, it doesn’t result in the destruction of forests and eco-systems that occurs with many fossil fuel operations.
Other motivations for going of the grid
- Solar power is renewable, clean and has no direct emissions.
- Independence from the electrical ZESA.
- Political/social values, such as taking responsibility for your energy impacts;
- Cost—depending on how far you are from the grid, it may make economic sense to stay disconnected.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Solar doesn’t work at night
The biggest disadvantage of solar energy is that it’s not constant. To produce solar electricity there must be sunlight. So energy must be stored or sourced elsewhere at night.
Beyond daily fluctuations, solar production decreases over winter months when there are less sunlight hours and sun radiation is less intense.
A very common criticism is that solar energy production is relatively inefficient.
Currently, widespread solar panel efficiency – how much of the sun’s energy a solar panel can convert into electrical energy – is at around 22%. This means that a fairly vast amount of surface area is required to produce adequate electricity.
Solar inefficiency is an interesting argument, as efficiency is relative. One could ask “inefficient compared to what?” And “What determines efficiency?” Solar panels currently only have a radiation efficiency of up to 22%, however they don’t create the carbon by-product that coal produces and doesn’t require constant extraction, refinement, and transportation – all of which surely carry weight on efficiency scales.
Solar electricity storage technology has not reached its potential yet.
While there are many solar drip feed batteries available, these are currently costly and bulky, and more appropriate to small scale home solar panels than large solar farms.
Solar panels are bulky
Solar panels are bulky. This is particularly true of the higher-efficiency, traditional silicon crystalline wafer solar modules. These are the large solar panels that are covered in glass.
New technology thin-film solar modules are much less bulky, and have recently been developed as applications such as solar roof tiles and “amorphous” flexible solar modules. The downfall is that thin-film is currently less efficient than crystalline wafer solar.
Zimbabwe needs more awareness on the benefits and advantages of solar energy. Government involvement through incentives. By getting more people of the grid, or using less of ZESA there will be more ZESA left for others. Maybe this will reduce load shedding.
“This year close to $50 million has been advanced in terms of agriculture, but again focusing on people with irrigation and on people with solid supply of inputs farmers with off-take arrangements. We are working with thousands of farmers. It’s a lot I cannot give you the figures,” he said.
Last year, CBZ funded winter wheat production and Nyemudzo said the group would provide funding for the crop this year.
“Land tenure is an issue being addressed at national level, most of our farmers are being asked to bring alternative security-land, building and insurance that is quite acceptable,” Nyemudzo said.
He said there was no limitation on the availability of funding, but the ability of farmers to sell and withstand weather hazards for instance when they have irrigation.
During the year ended-December 31, 2015 the group advances stood at $1 billion. The agriculture sector accounted for 29% of the group’s advances followed by distribution (20%), services (18%) and private sector (15%), among others. The group said it was committed to providing funding to critical sectors of the economy.
In the outlook, Nyemudzo said the group was targeting a 12,5% increase in deposits and a two percentage point increase in income.
The group posted an increase in after tax profit of 6,7% to $35,2 million during the full year 2015 from $33 million realised in the previous year.