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Hanley Sustainability Institute

UD professor co-authors paper on smart renewable energy plan for West Africa

By Mark Gokavi

Note: University of Dayton physics professor Robert Brecha is on leave serving as a European Union Marie Curie Fellow working with Climate Analytics in Germany on sustainable energy access and system transformation in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

University of Dayton professor and Hanley Sustainability Institute staff member Robert Brecha is one of eight authors of a paper about how West African nations can expand their power supply and meet climate goals by working together.

Brecha, along with Sebastian Sterl, also wrote an article about the paper for The Conversation, a publishing outlet for academics and researchers.

The group studied the natural resources of several neighboring countries to determine how solar, wind and hydroelectric power could be harnessed and shared to allow for more energy and climate consideration.

“Since power generation infrastructure lasts for 30 to 50 years, decisions taken today will to a large extent determine whether governments can meet their climate targets,” the article in The Conversation said. “Across West Africa, many countries grapple with the challenge of rising electricity demand. At the same time, climate change impacts, mostly caused by fossil fuel combustion, are having a heavy impact on the region’s weather patterns and potentially agricultural yields.”

The authors said the southern part of the region gets the most rain and therefore has the most hydropower. They said the north and coastal regions are best for wind power and the whole area can use solar.

“Cross-border electricity trade could make better use of all this hydropower, coupled with solar and wind,” Brecha and Sterl wrote in The Conversation article. “A common power pool, allowing countries to share their resources, could increase reliable, renewable power supply by as much as 60 percent, according to our research.”

Instead of relying on natural gas to provide consistent energy while solar and wind power get up to speed, the group found that hydropower could fill that role and reduce carbon emissions.

“West African countries are not yet locked in to large, integrated power grid infrastructure designed for plants powered by fossil fuels, as is the case in Europe and North America,” Brecha and Sterl wrote in the story about the paper. “The region can plan its future grids around renewables from the outset. It’s an opportunity to leapfrog old technologies – one which other parts of the world have never had.”

For more sustainability news and information, visit HSI’s news blog, the Hanley Sustainability Institute website and the Sustainability Program website.

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