Thursday, January 29, 2015

Africa's quiet solar revolution

The continent skipped land lines for mobile phones. Now a new generation of start-ups is trying to bring sun power to rural Africa – and leapfrog the fossil fuel era.

By Lorena Galliot, Contributor, Christian Science Monitor, JANUARY 25, 2015

ARUSHA, TANZANIA — By Tanzanian standards, Nosim Noah is not poor. A tall, handsome woman with the angular features of her fellow Masai tribe members, Ms. Noah makes a good living selling women’s and children’s clothes in the markets of this northern Tanzanian city. The four-bedroom brick house she shares with her parents and three children outside town has many modern comforts: mosquito screens on the windows and doors, a gas cookstove, and, most important, a faucet with running water in the back of the yard, next to a stall with a working toilet.

But despite their relative prosperity, up until late 2013, the family had no electricity.

“We waited 10 years for them to turn the power on – 10 years and nothing,” says Noah.

Then, one afternoon, the Noahs had an unexpected knock on the door. An agent for a new electrical company called M-POWER said that, for a sign-up fee of only 10,000 shillings ($6), he could install a fully functioning solar home system in their house – enough to power several LED lights and a radio. The payoff was immediate. While Noah used to spend $18 a month on kerosene, she now pays a monthly average of $11 for her solar lighting, and she no longer has to go into town to charge her cellphone. The person most affected, though, may be her 2-year-old daughter, Emilia, who is afraid of the dark.

(Continued here.)

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