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An ingenious idea in Africa uses a desert ecosystem to produce clean energy.

Powerland: Windhoek, Namibia
August 5, 2011 - 6:49am

WINDHOEK, Namibia — One-hundred miles southwest of Windhoek, Namibia, in the middle of the most forbidding desert, a group of scientists at the Gobabeb Training and Research Center in Namibia are working at the forefront of technology to create a hybrid energy system that could change the way cities and countries manage their electricity.

Called a “minigrid," the system uses solar and wind power connected to a special electrical converter and battery array that supplies energy to the 40 researchers stationed here.

It is an environmentally responsible power generation system, saving 2,500 liters of diesel per month since it was first built two years ago.

This system harnesses power from alternative energies and reduces reliance on fossil fuels.

Isolated in one of Earth’s largest deserts, scientists from around the world come here to study this 50 million-year-old ecosystem and learn how humanity can
live in tandem with — and take advantage of — nature.

The Gobabeb Center is funded by the Namibian government, the Windhoek-based Desert Research Foundation of Namibia and seven countries around the
world. It is an oasis of cooperative learning that is seeking to addess the planet’s urgent energy needs.

This country of two million people is showing the way forward for Africa.

Minigrid systems are being rolled out in far flung rural areas and in buildings in Windhoek, turning power users into power suppliers. Namibia has drafted a power plan that will see the country generating as much as 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources in the next 15 years.  

Systems like this can pay for themselves quickly, offering a clean solution to electrical energy wherever the sun shines.

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