World Bank bets big on batteries for solar energy boost

Solar panels at George Airport, South Africa's first solar-powered airport
Solar panels at George Airport, South Africa's first solar-powered airport

Solar energy could be a huge source of power in Africa, but its potential has been stymied by storage batteries that are too expensive and inadequate for use in poor countries.

The World Bank aims to break through that bottleneck, announcing plans Wednesday to invest $1 billion—and leverage it by another $4 billion—to boost developing ' energy storage capacity from 4.5 to 17.5 Gigawatt hours by 2025.

While is abundant, the sun goes down around 5:00 or 6:00 pm in most of the African continent, making storage capacity crucial to providing a continuous supply of electricity.

It is a limitation with no impact on diesel and other fossil fuels in wide use to generate electricity.

Africa, where solar power is an "unmissable" source of energy, will be the first to benefit, said Riccardo Puliti, head of energy practice at the World Bank.

Bangladesh and other developing countries of Southeast Asia also will benefit from the World Bank's investment, which aims to stimulate a fledgling market and to create a "virtuous circle."

"We want to develop the market for batteries in developing countries," Puliti told AFP. "Storage has a great future."

Lithium batteries are available today, but they are made principally for electric vehicles.

Instead, the World Bank would like to see affordable batteries that are scaled to village life, capable of lasting seven or eight hours at night, resistant to extreme temperatures and require little maintenance.

The cost is a crucial factor. Today, the best batteries available in industrialized countries cost $200 to $300 per kilowatt hour of installed capacity, or less.

In developing countries, they are prohibitively expensive, ranging in price from $400 to $700 per kilowatt hour.

The World Bank's goal is to bring those prices down in the coming years.

"Battery storage can help countries leapfrog to the next generation of , expand energy access, and set the stage for much cleaner, more stable, energy systems," said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

Now it's up to manufacturers to heed the call, and develop the appropriate technologies.

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© 2018 AFP

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Sep 27, 2018
How nice. Another bureaucratic entity spending billions of Western dollars in the 3rd world for dubious, unproven technology.

Sep 27, 2018
"While solar energy is abundant..."
While solar energy is abundant and renewable, solar panels and batteries aren't; it's all manufactured/mined/transported/installed/maintained/repaired/recycled by fossil-fueled-machines.
"The spiralling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction" - Aug 2018
"Thank you, African child miner! Without you we couldn't have clean electric cars, windmills & solar panels! Mine on little one!"
"The demand for cobalt has increased in correlation to the global demand for ... electric cars, due to its use as a vital component in lithium ion rechargeable batteries ... mining related illnesses, child labour and an exploitative environment."

Sep 27, 2018
Thorium Bore's once again feeling threatened by the "3rd world" and spewing the conspiratorial nonsense that serves to perpetuate the convenient fantasy that his privilege doesn't exist and he's somehow a victim of those elites and the inferiors that they supposedly support/exploit. This time it's Africans. In another post it was the indigenous people of the western hemisphere that was the focus of his dysfunctional threat response. Here's some news for ya, Thorium Bore: the narrative that you've been handed, the notion that non-'westerners', while imperfect like us all, weren't merely the violent primitive savages that you like to think they were, nor is any attempt to improve the conditions of poorer nations (mitigating threats in the process) an attack on you.

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