Everyone thinks solar energy is the way to the promise land. Dream on! The truth is that what works for developed countries might not work for a developing country like Nigeria.
Let’s look at this from an economic standpoint. Solar panels(not individual solar cells) as a backup to regular power makes sense if you are the President, or Obasanjo or one of those Nigerian House of Rep members fighting Kung Fu in the National Assembly. It is expensive! Solar panels cost varies depending on their usage from a couple thousand US dollars to a couple of hundred thousands of US dollars. I don’t want to imagine what that will cost in Naira under the current conversion rate.
When solar panels are installed in the United States, it takes about 15 years to get a solid return on investments (ROI). In addition, solar cells can only absorb sunlight at a maximum efficiency rate of 20% (high end). You will still have to use your kerosene lantern at night because solar panels have poor energy storage. In any case, the technology is still underdeveloped in the US and if you think you want to be smart and store it in batteries, think again…
I would not want to discourage anyone in Nigeria with a decent amount of disposable income from thinking highly of that technology, the amount of sunlight that we receive at Zaria is good enough to power a home; the problem that will arise will be in the policies of the country, what if you generate more than you use? Will PHCN buy the excess back? Could you at least give it to them for free? It is difficult to store excess solar energy…
My solution for Nigeria is that we dig up that coal that we have in Enugu; crank up ‘them’ old generators and invest in some good Engineers with experience. Anyone coming with the solar panel ideology is trying to take advantage of a fragile
nation (An ideology meant to siphon our money) unless they donate it for free (which I am all up for)!
The truth is that investing in solar panels is just like buying the latest Apple iphone, or buying a new windows 7 operating system from Microsoft…it is my natural disposition to let their smart people fix all the kinks first; let Microsoft discover all the bugs and do all the patch work before I spend my hard earned money to purchase that product.
Here is my take; can solar cells be used to power a few homes or a small community in Nigeria? Yes. Can solar cells be used as a major source of power generation for the entire country? Keep dreaming!