Solar potential of Africa and its potential for green hydrogen on the continent

Our 21st century energy transition provides the opportunity to replace fossil fuels with more sustainable, lower carbon alternatives that embrace this free energy supply. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), since 2010 the cost of solar photovoltaics (PV) has plummeted by more than 80%, opening up new opportunities for operators in parts of the world that previously had no chance of accessing such technologies [1]. A major benefit of that will be the ability to produce green hydrogen locally in remote areas in regions like sub-Saharan Africa, via the process of water electrolysis powered by solar PV.

Given that hydrogen can be combined with nitrogen from the air, via a well-established technology called the Haber-Bosch process, to produce Ammonia. In a predominantly agricultural society, seen in many African nations, ammonia-based fertilisers play a crucial role in maintaining viable levels of crop yield for local farmers.

Currently, the vast majority of hydrogen produced and used at an industrial scale in Africa, is not low‐carbon. It’s derived via a process called Steam Methane Reformation (SMR), which involves natural gas reacting with high-heat and high-pressure steam to liberate the hydrogen from the carbon. That process also produces vast quantities of carbon dioxide, the main driver of atmospheric warming that is changing our global climate so rapidly and dramatically.

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