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SOLAR TECHNOLOGY: AN ALTERNATIVE SOURCE OF ENERGY FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The development of a nation brings an effective transformation of its socio-political, economic, cultural, technology and industrial bases. More so, within the particular conception of socio-economic processes which underscores every economic system, economic development, globally, resolves around the issues of the character, structure, pattern and evolution of desirable inter-personal relations of production, allocation and utilization of available resources in any country.1
In order to achieve these and put national development on course, modern operational technologies with respect to production, allocation and utilization is designed and tied strictly to the use of energy in one form or the other.2 Based on the above, it is seen that the quest to rapidly and firmly put the Nigerian state on course of sustainable development is technically a function of adequate and sustained supply and distribution of energy. According to the present Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi, the Nigeria economy will continue to take a wrong course until the power sector of the nation is put on the right track.3 This underlines the need of an adequate supply of energy to the nation in general and the industrial sector in particular.
The above synopsis indeed, explain the major reason why one of the frustrating and disturbing issue in Nigeria national development today is that of epileptic power supply particularly since the late 1980’s. The situation of the emerging electricity outrage from the supply inadequacy, especially in the late 1990’s was that of persistent electricity power shortage at alarming rates.4 This is in the face of abundant primary electricity resources- coal, natural gas, geothermal, tide, solar, biogas, and biomass to mention but the few. This period was a period that could by tagged the “Dark days” in Nigeria.
Apart from economic and political crisis that grounded socio-political and economic activities in the country, the period of
the 1990s was defined as a period of serious electricity crisis. This period was also tagged to be a crucial or decisive moment; an undesirable turning point; a time of difficulty and distress. To cap it, the ugly situation of electricity shortages and inadequacy shows the emergence of a crisis situation in which electricity supply could not catch up with its high demand. The use and need of alternative power generators then becomes the order of the day. The use of generators has however cost the nation in ways of air pollution in the form of carbon monoxide which has resulted to death especially of member of households. Some other cost has been noise pollution, and the expensive cost of maintaining some of these generators which has at one time or the other stalled industrial production and high cost of production.5
This has thus created the need for other safer and less expensive alternatives of power supply. The adoption of solar energy as an alternative power supply then becomes most necessary. This involves the use of lenses or mirrors and tracking system to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam and then converts light into electric current using the photo electric effect, while PV is a device that converts light into electric current using the photo electric effect.6
Solar power has great potential. In 2008, solar power supplied about 0.02% of the world total energy supply.7 The technology is now been popular following the energy crisis that engulfed that world system in the 1990’s. There are many competing technologies, including fourteen types of photo electric cells, such as thin film, mono crystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, and amorphous cells, as well as multiple types of concentrating solar power. This creates the bases for many alternatives and options even in the solar power energy technology.
The adoption of solar technology in Nigeria especially in recent times has been rather dramatic with its increasing role especially in household usage. The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) director, Dr. Onyebuci Onyegbule, in a fundraising expressed that the NCF considered the introduction of Photo Voltaic (PV) technology a necessity. The consensus was that GWU Solar should consider rural communities by fabricating small power machines for agriculture, the running of cottage industries, and the introduction of demonstration centres for raising awareness.8
The tropical climate makes solar energy the most viable alternative source of renewable energy in Nigeria. Harnessing the sun's energy to produce power is an imperative for rural areas where the hope of being connected to the national grid is very remote and extremely expensive. It is however unfortunate that in spite of the inherent high potentials for solar technology in Nigeria and the immense benefits of the use of solar technology Nigeria is yet to take full advantage it.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
It is a fact that the quest for national development in Nigeria relies heavily on the need for a sustainable power supply. Nigeria been a country with a lot of potentials and resources stands a chance to acquire such sustainable power supply. However the country still battles with the high rate of power outages which has not only crippled the business environment of the nation but has also discouraged foreign investment. The development of Nigeria however relies heavily on investment in the industrial sector which in turn is dependent upon a sustainable and adequate power supply in the nation.
The household sector has also suffered greatly from the power problem in Nigeria. Power supply in some areas in Nigeria remains a mirage as people continue to seek for alternative power supply for their homes and small businesses. One of such alternative power supply which however has not been fully tapped is the solar energy. Based on the foregoing, this study seeks to proffer answers to the following:
a. What is the present state of power generation and supply in the country?
b. Can the energy sector in Nigeria be revived?
c. Can solar energy be an alternative to the present source of energy in Nigeria?
d. What are the advantages of solar technology as it affects National development?
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of this study is to examine the possibility of using solar technology as an alternative source of energy for Nigeria national development. Specifically, the study will achieve the following objectives:
a. Examine the present state of power generation and supply in Nigeria.
b. Examine the possibility of reviving the energy sector of Nigeria.
c. Consider the use of solar energy as an alternative source of energy for National development in Nigeria.
d. Highlight the advantages of solar technology as it affects national development.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The importance of this study is underscored by the fact that it would contribute to the advancement of knowledge on solar energy in Nigeria as an alternative power supply for National development. The investigations in this study will also assist Government agencies particularly the Ministry of Power and Energy to appreciate the significance of solar technology in enhancing National development. It will further help in stimulating further research on the solar energy as an alternative power supply. It is also hoped that the study will add to existing literature and body of knowledge on the interrelationship between the concepts of energy supply and National development. It will also provide material for future studies on this topic.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The issue of the adoption of solar energy as an alternative power supply in Nigeria has been ongoing for a while now. This has led to projects and programmes which have been introduced in Nigeria Since the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, different states in the federation have implemented several measures in developing the power.
In the course of this study, only relevant literature on this topic from the periods of 1999 to 2010 will be referred to. This is because of the need to make the study familiar to current leadership who has been key players in the formulation of existing policies.
A major limitation is the dependence of this study on secondary data to analyse the problems in the study. Although the data used was from reputable agencies and bodies, the authenticity of their findings might not be insulated from bias. This however did affect the quality of research carried out as the researcher adopted proper and comparative analysis in arriving at a veritable research work.