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Israel-Linked Company Dedicates Largest Solar Field in Africa

A company with Israeli ties dedicated the largest solar field in Africa on Thursday. The solar field was built in Rwanda by Gigawatt Global, whose president is Israeli solar power pioneer Yosef Abramowitz, in Rwanda. The land for the solar field is owned by the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. The youth village serves an orphanage for victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The Times of Israel reports:

The project, which is part of the United States government’s Power Africa Initiative, an attempt to increase access to electricity throughout all of Sub-Saharan Africa, was constructed in just 12 months. …

The $23.7 million solar field will provide Rwanda with 8.5 megawatts of power for 12 million people. The country currently has only about 138 megawatts of power, so the solar field will increase the entire country’s electricity production by 6 percent. Comparatively, the US uses almost 100,000 megawatts of power over the course of a single summer. …

The project, which will supply 15,000 homes with electricity, also created 350 jobs during construction and 50 long-term maintenance jobs at the field, located 60 kilometers (37 miles) outside the capital of Kigali.

The Times notes that most of Rwanda’s energy currently comes from burning wood. Having electricity generated by sun, Gigawatt Global estimates, “will save families around 12 million hours per year.”

Abramowitz credit the late Anne Heyman, founder of the youth village, with the idea. Abramowitz built a similar solar field in Israel on the land of Kibbutz Ketura, located in Israel’s Arava region. Gigawatt Global is currently in negotiations with the African nation of Burundi to build a similar field.

In The Sun Keeps Shining on Yosef Abramowitz, which was published in the July 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Assaf Dudai identified the inspiration for Abramowitz to become Israel’s solar energy pioneer.

So how come nobody else has ever thought of harnessing solar energy in Israel, even though a third of its territory is a sprawling, sun-drenched desert? “Actually,” Abramowitz smiles, “somebody did. His name was [David] Ben-Gurion.” Indeed, here is a startling 1956 quote from Israel’s first prime minister:

The largest and most impressive source of energy in our world and the source of life for every plant and animal, yet a source so little used by mankind is the sun… solar energy will continue to flow toward us almost indefinitely.

Ben-Gurion initiated the nationwide use of solar power for water heaters, making Israel the first country in the world to use solar power for this purpose.

[Photo: Agahozo Shalom / YouTube ]