UN Solar, Wind Assessment Project Looks for Funding

Thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy potential in Africa, Asia, South and Central America has been identified by the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA) project.

The $9.3 million project aims to prove that the potential for deploying solar panels and wind turbines in 13 developing countries is far greater than previously supposed. First results from the project were released at an international meeting of scientists and policymakers organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which is coordinating SWERA on behalf of more than 25 institutions around the world. “In developing countries all over the world we have removed some of the uncertainty about the size and intensity of the solar and wind resource,” said Klaus Toepfer, the executive director at UNEP. “These countries need greatly expanded energy services to help in the fight against poverty and to power sustainable development. The SWERA offers them the technical and policy assistance to capture the potential that renewable energy can offer.” SWERA Project Manager Tom Hamlin said the project is now under evaluation and will be seeking support to service requests from renewable energy development programs in other developing countries. Since its beginning, in 2001, and with substantial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), SWERA has been developing a range of new information tools to stimulate renewable energy development, including detailed maps of wind and solar resources. Reliable, accurate and accessible solar and wind energy information is critical to the deployment of these technologies, Toepfer said. In Nicaragua, for example, SWERA assessments of wind resources demonstrated a much greater potential than the 200 MW estimated in the 1980s. The results prompted the Nicaraguan National Assembly to pass the 2004 decree on Promotion of Wind Energy of Nicaragua that gives wind-generated electricity “first dispatch”, meaning it has the first priority over other options when fed into electricity grids. The US Trade and Development Agency and the Inter-American Development Bank have subsequently launched wind energy feasibility studies in Nicaragua, and wind investment projects are now advancing with 40 MW planned in two projects and two more exploration licenses granted. SWERA information is also providing solar resource information for a range of cooperative efforts in Nicaragua between groups, such as the World Bank and the GEF for projects focused on rural electrification. Six thousand solar PV systems are being installed in World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank rural electrification programs in part because of information from the project. The countries where SWERA has carried out surveys to date are: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka.
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