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msafi ri 76 SOLAR POWER sk a person to think of Africa and they might tell you that they picture wide- open spaces, beautiful, friendly people, big game and amazing sunrises. Indeed, Africa's beautiful sunrises are capable of providing the continent with the single most reliable form of natural and dependable energy in the form of sunlight. Ironically, the so-called Dark Continent enjoys 51% of Earth's most concentrated sunlight, leaving the rest of the world to share the remaining 49%; perhaps it should be renamed the Continent of Light. ENERGY FOR FREE A serious lack of traditional electricity grid systems provides Africa with a unique and unparalleled opportunity to install solar energy technologies and leapfrog lessons learned about effi cient energy supply from the developed world. For example, the German government found it cheaper to incentivise homeowners to install solar water and electric systems than to continue building coal- powered stations with transmission lines, technicians and other associated costs. Solar energy represents an obvious choice for Africa to achieve energy independence and security without destroying its environment or the ability for future generations to enjoy a healthy planet. But how realistic is it? One of the frequently perpetuated renewable energy myths states that " solar energy is unable to provide for our energy needs". The fact is that, during the course of ONE day, the sun sends 10,000 to 15,000 times more energy to earth than we collectively use. A recent study conducted by prominent environmental economists based in the UK conclusively states that Solar Concentrator Power Stations ( SCP) built in the Sahara and connected to Europe, North Africa and the middle east's energy grid could easily provide enough energy for the entire region's current and future needs! All that remains is CONTINENT OF light With more than half the world's concentrated sunlight, Africa is in a fantastic position to take advantage of solar technologies argues Crosby Menzies, director of Solar Cookers for Africa the political, fi nancial and inter- regional co-operation necessary to install these systems able to harness the sun's abundant and free source of energy. SO WHAT'S AVAILABLE? Solar Technologies are continually improving and come in many varieties, including Solar Water Heater systems used for heating water ( using only sunlight); Photo Voltaic ( PV) or Solar Electric Systems generating electricity using pure sunlight which is then stored in batteries for use after dark; Solar Concentrator Systems including the power stations mentioned above ( as found in Spain or California) and Solar Cooking systems. Solar Cookers are a particularly valuable technology for Africa, with an estimated 800 million Africans reliant on fi rewood for cooking. Firewood is still the daily fuel for over 2 billion people and accounts for 15- 18% of global primary energy consumption, more than all nuclear and hydropower combined. The idea of Solar Cooking has been around since at least 1750, with serious product development taking place over the past 80 years. Solar Cooker models come in various shapes and sizes; the two most well-known are Solar Concentrator and Solar Box or Oven types. SOLAR CONCENTRATORS Solar Concentrators focus sunlight onto a central area, much like a magnifying glass, where a black pot ( for maximum