City of Harare has installed four solar powered street lights for a test run in a programme that is hoped will see a total of 2,900 solar lights installed in the city over a three year period. The solar panels charge a rechargeable battery, which powers a fluorescent or LED lamp during the night.
A local newspaper in March reported that council was considering a Zambian firm that has come forward to install the solar street lights at no cost to council in return for advertising rights on the lighting poles.
Contacted for a comment, council said that it was going to finalise the deal with its Zambian counterpart in April and a roll out was expected to commence by July 2014.
Leslie Gwindi, the City’s Corporate Communications Manager, said that solar street lights had enormous benefits, which include saving electricity.
“The city is not going to be affected by load shedding or cable faults. There is less equipment and hence faults. The city will also save up to $200,000 every month [in electricity bills],” said Gwindi.
Gwindi also revealed that the solar street lights to be installed will be stand-alone units and a fault on one will not affect the others.
Tatenda Tagumirwa (29), who lives in the CBD, said that the installation of solar street lights was a move which was long overdue.
“Harare is not safe at night due to lack of street lights and many people have been mugged in the darkness leading to loss of property and hard earned cash. The use of solar streets lights is welcome as people will be guaranteed of lighting,” said Tagumirwa.
Street lighting at night has been a problem in Harare as council has struggled over the years to maintain the existing street lights which are now dysfunctional due to old age. Load shedding is also a problem as lights go out when there is no power.
Susan Mutanga (37), an environmentalist in her own right who comes from Mbare, said that it is amazing that Harare as the Sunshine City has failed to fully utilise energy from the sun.
“God gave us all this sunshine and it is really sad to note that we are not using it to the benefit of our lives and economy. Authorities should help individuals who want to adopt the use of solar energy, people should be encouraged to use it so that we create a clean environment,” urged Mutanga.
Harare is making strides – though at a slow pace – in harnessing solar energy. In 2010 council started installing solar traffic lights and by November 2013, 18 units had been installed.
The use of solar power, which is abundant in this part of the world, has been touted by many as a solution to the country’s electricity shortages. Environmentalists have also weighed in saying that solar energy provides a clean and renewable energy which is not harmful to the environment.
Solar energy can also be used for residential, commercial and industrial purposes. Countries such as Germany and Japan have adopted subsidy programs and green pricing policies of utilities or electricity service providers – a move which has stimulated demand.