SOLtrain West Africa ECOWAS Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Program
by François Veynandt, France (EUREC 2007/08)
Together with my colleague Rudolf Moschik, I am contributing, as research engineer at AEE – Institute for Sustainable Technologies (AEE INTEC), to the implementation of the project SOLtrain West Africa, especially in the French speaking countries. The program is inspired by the experience of AEE INTEC in the SOLTRAIN projects in southern Africa. Started for over seven years, the program has achieved great positive impact. In West Africa, the first phase was in 2015; the second phase started in 2017 and continues this year 2018. The aim is to pursue the program in West Africa to keep the positive momentum. The way to implement the following steps is still open. Interested partners are welcome to contribute.
Photo: Visiting the monitored thermosiphon system in Cabo Verde during the “train the trainer” workshop (March 21st 2018).
The solar resource is high in all West African countries with around 2000 kWh/m²a. Solar thermal technologies can deliver sustainable and cost effective heat for a wide range of applications from hot water, e.g. in residential and health sector, to process heat in industries e.g. food and beverage transformation, as well as drying applications, especially for agricultural goods. Using solar thermal can contribute to empower the local economies, making the most of the local solar resource and reducing the pressure on the environment (less biomass burnt for low grade heat) and the load on the electrical grid (avoiding electricity consumption for heating) –improving grid stability. But many existing solar thermal installations have been imported. They are not maintained correctly and often fail after only a short time. Therefore, awareness, specialized skilled workers, as well as political support and legal framework are strongly necessary to harness successfully solar thermal energy in West African countries.
This is the objective of the SOLtrain West Africa project (ECOWAS Solar Thermal Energy Training and Demonstration Program). SOLtrain West Africa has been initiated by ECREEE (ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) and is being implemented by AEE INTEC (AEE - Institute for Sustainable Technologies) in 5 countries: Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal. The work program has been determined in close coordination with the partners in each country. It is based on the energy policy of the countries as well as their socio-economic context.
Train-the-trainers workshops are carried out to create practical and theoretical skills, which increase the capacity of existing universities and polytechnic schools to train by themselves installers, practitioners, technicians and local companies. After realizing a market study in the countries, a first 3-days workshop in each five countries has been realized in 2017 followed by one or two dissemination workshops. A second series of workshops is being carried out this year in 2018. Monitoring is provided to the local partners and implemented in an existing solar thermal system. The concrete measurement data provide an excellent base for learning about actual performances of solar thermal systems in each country. It proves the efficiency of the system and enables the quantification of improvement measures.
The following steps will be adjusted according to the need of each partner country and depending on funding opportunities. Next activity should be a further training for the financial and the administration sector. It is also foreseen to implement demonstration systems for educational purposes. Other possible activities are technical assistance to local producers for production of components. Extending the training to solar drying applications has also been identified as a request from local stakeholders.
Photos : AEE INTEC