Friday, December 17, 2010

Solar Energy in Egypt

When I first came here, I was surprised to look out over all of Cairo and not see any solar panels on rooftops.  There is so much sun here, literally almost every day of the year.   In the four months we've been here so far, we have not seen any rain and there have probably been fewer than 10 overcast days.  So the potential for solar power is amazing.
Here's the view from the 11th floor of our hotel during our first week.
If you click on the photo and then click again on the magnifying glass, you can get a closer look.

I was pleased to see when driving through the desert on the way back from our desert safari that there are some solar panels providing electricity at regular intervals along this one desert road.

These solar array were about every 10 miles or so for a stretch (-- about 10 or so total).
And in googling around, I learned there are some other solar project underway here in Egypt.  I found this photo on Google Images with a caption that described how these solar panels were part of a project by SolarCities (see in a Cairo neighborhood where the Zabaleen live.  The Zabaleen are the Christian community that unofficially handles most of the recycling in the city---  the area where they live is known as Garbage City since this is where the trash is taken to be recycled.  

Here is a link to an article that tells more about what this group Solarcities is doing:
Solar Cities has been installing solar panels in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Cairo since 2003, installing 34 solar-powered hot water systems and 5 biogas reactors so far.  

I was also very pleased to read an article from two months ago about how the World Bank will be providing Egypt with $270 million to fund a solar power plant would be part of a $100 billion to $120 billion plan to triple the capacity of the power plant by the year 2027.

Egypt now has a plant with 25,000 megawatts of power capacity.  The article reports this plant had repeated outages this year.  We are quite familiar with losing power.  At first, we didn't know what to think of it and worried we would lose all our food in the refrigerator if the power remained out for a day or so, but then we realized that it generally comes back on after about an hour or so, so usually there's nothing to be done but be patient.

Here is an interesting video about the World Bank solar project in Egypt.

I am quite ambivalent about the World Bank since part of what I've been studying about is how World Bank projects for many years focused on privatization which in some underdeveloped countries has been quite detrimental to those countries.  For example, the World Bank conditioned most of its water projects in the 'Third World' on those countries privatizing their water systems, which sometimes resulted in big transnational water distributors coming into a country with an eye on making a profit, which sometimes resulted in sky-rocketing prices for water, such as in Bolivia and Tanzania.    This solar panel project seems like a good idea though.

I was also happy to read about the World Bank providing a $220 million loan for a Wind Power Development project that would work on developing the infrastructure for wind power.  Egypt reportedly has some of the best wind power resources in the world, particularly around the area of the Gulf of Suez and on the west and east banks of the Nile."

We haven't yet been to the Gulf of Suez, but I have experienced just how windy it is on the bridge crossing the Nile!

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