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Lesotho: Solar-thermal power for rural villages

The World Bank today signed a grant agreement for a project aimed at improving the lives of Basotho people in rural communities
The project, funded through the World Bank’s Development Marketplace* initiative, will use innovative solar micro-generator technology to provide an affordable and renewable source of electricity and hot water. It will also help build local capacity to encourage regional manufacture and dissemination of the technology.

The funding awarded to the project is US$129,530. It is a partnership between MIT Solar Turbine Group and the Bethel Business and Community Development Center.

This project promotes a pioneering version of a proven renewable energy technology, which can be manufactured locally. The technology combines solar thermal power with a unique micro-scale generator adapted and scaled to suit the needs of underserved communities in Lesotho. It is rugged and simple to construct. It uses cheap and available automotive parts for components and operates via mechanical principles understood by any local mechanic or repairman. It can provide sustainable and cost-effective electricity, hot water and refrigeration off the grid.

Less than 10 percent of the population in Lesotho is connected to the energy grid, and extensions to rural villages are estimated to cost over US$1,000 per household in a nation with a per capita Gross National Income of US$950.

“Economic productivity has been severely handicapped by the absence of energy infrastructure. In addition, unsustainable harvesting of biomass fuel has contributed to the massive land degradation that erodes much of Lesotho, undermining its agricultural productivity and perpetuating poverty and lack of opportunity,” says project coordinator Matthew Orosz.

The systems will be disseminated with a market-based approach: mobilizing local entrepreneurship using micro-credit lending. Three pilot communities will initially benefit from the technology: a village in the high plateaus of Phamong, a rural school, and a clinic.

“This project is very innovative. While it is a small beginning, we hope it can be replicated to other communities to help provide affordable electricity and water that can further development in the country,” says Ritva Reinikka, the World Bank Country Director for Lesotho who signed the agreement with the project leaders in Maseru.

Additional information:
News date: 13/09/2006

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