Renewable energy concept and research areas
Fossil fuel price volatility coupled with its increasing cost and climate change, as well as efforts to reduce pollution, have led to an unprecedented global investment in renewable energy sources in recent times. Generally, life-cycle global warming emissions associated with renewable energy – including manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance, and dismantling and decommissioning – are minimal, compared to fossil fuels. Generating electricity from renewable energy rather than fossil fuels offers significant public health benefits. Ghana, like many other countries, is focused on the integration of renewable energy into the national energy mix to ensure the security of energy supply, ensure a cleaner environment, and help mitigate climate change.
In view of the above, Ghana, and indeed several other African countries are developing plans and policies for increased infusion of renewables into the national electricity grid systems, or as mini-grid and standalone systems. Nigeria and Ghana have already completed the development of renewable energy masterplans. Several countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana, have developed mini-grid plans and policies to extend electricity to remote rural communities, with some ambitious targets.
Ghana’s renewable energy masterplan, for example, is aiming to infuse about 1000 MW into the national electricity grid system using a mix of solar, wind and biomass generation systems. The plan is also targeting the development of about 200 MW distributed solar PV, 20 MW of standalone systems and about 300 mini-grids for lakeside and island communities by 2030. The achievement of these targets will require technological and manufacturing research support, including, inter alia, the mapping of resources at appropriate locations, development of indigenous technologies and new materials development. Issues regarding energy storage are also very important in this regard. The hunt for high-performance energy-storage and conversion devices remains an overarching objective for renewable energy development. In addition, the cost associated with producing these devices, and the dependence on the abundance of materials and fabrication processes, are now becoming other overriding factors. Notions of sustainability, renewability and green technology must be taken into consideration when selecting next-generation materials for energy applications.
To support the development of renewable energy technologies in the region, KEEP will focus on the following key areas for renewable energy research at KNUST: