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Opinions of Friday, 3 April 2015

Columnist: Ampadu, Marcus

RE: Solar Energy is not as expensive as it used to be

Solar Energy is not as expensive as it used to be: a rejoinder to the renowned Professor Emeritus Francis Kofi Ampenyi Allotey.

After the confab between Professor Emeritus Francis Kofi Ampenyi Allotey and Starr Chat host Bola Ray concerning our energy crisis, what was said and not said have generated lots of feedback, negative and positive, appearing as general news. (See Ghanaweb, 2015-03-05)

Below are sampling of some of the 121 commentators who responded to the chat:

"Is CORRUPTION 2 expensive 4 for the nation" by Don't Care !!! Allotey shd. give us a break ...that is enough of your bickering ! ...he shd. explain what he means by solar energy is too expensive for Ghana and when is the "FUTURE ?" ... even though Uncle Sam, Aunt Sam (EUROPE) don't have enough sun .. they have invested in this free for all raw material to generate energy ... even Koo White Malam (CHINA) have invested in it but blackman will be dancing (talk-talk) around the simple facts and truth till they lost in them-them memories....Hmmmmm"

"In Continental Solar Usage" by Owia Wo Ahooden Papa These old foggies are sometimes employed secretly by Foreign corporate organizations to influence policy in their favour ..."

"Professor Allotey must have been misquoted" by Laala KOFI, Tema

"As far as I know Prof. Allotey, he has been a strong supporter and promoter of solar energy and the other alternative energy systems, as important sources in our energy mix.

Indeed Prof. Allotey has installed a sizable quantity of solar panels and battery systems in his household to complement his energy use. I strongly believe that the interviewer/reporter quoted him out of context."

"Re: Theoretical Work Powers Technology" , Opined Dr. SAS "So? We must just swallow this Prof. nonsense about solar energy although it sounds so stupid? ... How did the Prof. arrive at the conclusory statement that solar energy is too expensive and unreliable, or that the technology is not proven yet? Does the Prof. know anything about solar energy?"

"Emiritus With NO Inventions." by David Lardi "Theoretical Maths and Physics not able to solve dumsor dumsor."

"Ghanaians" by Paul Siaw "Ghanaians like to complain and insult and criticize of any one. U want to insult a man like Prof. Allotey? Ignorant fools.

"Emeritus INDEED ! Chew And Pour Prof." by Che

" All Ghanaians know best is to chew what somebody has done and gain degrees out of them ... but come out with nothing new for posterity. Useless Prof. Emeritus INDEED! With your degrees you can't come up with an existing alternative?"

"Solar Is Affordable" by Kojo Amuesi

"In the 1960's Kwame Nkrumah lined the Tema motorway with solar powered emergency phones. All the solar panels were stolen anyway. After 50 years we should have built on that and expanded the use of solar power.....We should be considering offshore windmills too. But Prof. you should have gone a step further and suggested alternative eg Nuclear, ... but no constructive contribution?"

"Use Internet To Find Options" by Saint GhfuoNyantakyi must go ! Instead of using the Internet to find energy options and providers. These niggas are busy disagreeing with each other ... Nkwasiafuo !"

I immediately went searching for information on energy options as suggested by Saint GHfuo, and read a detailed biography of the renowned Professor put out by Ghanaweb.

I also went to to read up on Physicist of the Afrcan Diaspora. I also read Ghanaweb General News of 2007, 04-11.

Which brings me to ask why Bola Ray didn't do his research before going to interview the famous Professor; and if he did his homework, he failed to ask the Professor pertinent questions about solar energy, and weather our nation is ready to go solar. Thus confirming the perception that our media houses are purveyors of low information.

If Solar energy "has not proven to be completely reliable in resolving energy deficiencies" , as the eminent Professor intimated, why, may I ask, has solar energy boom gripped the world for more than a decade now? I would have expected Bola Ray to have asked that question.

In 2012, 83,000 Americans homeowners installed solar energy systems. They wouldn't have done this if the technology is not quite proven yet. PV power plants are springing up all over the developed world. There is the Nellis Air Force Base Plant in Nevada consisting of 72, 416 solar panels, each generating 200 watts. the panels are built on trackers that follow the sun as it moves across the sky. The plant provides 25% of the energy consumed by the base, where 12,000 people live and work. Don't we have the engineers and the work force to replicate this?

The solar route is also attractive for many in the developing world where an estimated 1.6 billion people also face dumsor-dumsor. About 200, 000 PV systems installed in Kenya over a 25 -year period now provide power to 5% of the rural Kenyan population. Annual sales in Kenya exceed 30, 000 systems, a sure sign that the technology is in great demand. Solar homes are being added in many developing countries - in Brazil, Costa Rica, China, Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Morocco, and South Africa. Bangladesh is installing nearly two new rooftop PV systems every hour making it the most rapidly growing market for photovoltaic in the world.

In my candid opinion, Professor Emeritus Francis Kofi Ampenyi Allotey's assertion that " Solar is good but technology is not quite proven yet, so I will not advise that now" is completely disingenuous on his part, knowing fully well that the renowned Mathematician and Physicist is 99.9% percent for nuclear energy. But because of the Chernoblyl meltdown and the recent Fukuyama incident in Japan, and the perceived resistance of the US and Israel to Iran's nuclear ambition has made the nuclear option a big nono. We know you once headed the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, and your sentiments are therefore to push for nuclear energy, rather than exploring renewable sources of energy, like solar, wind, geothermal, and bio-fuels.

As President Kwame Nkrumah said on 25 November, 1964, "In Africa we have no lack of sunlight, and the development of solar energy should be, one of our main scientific preoccupations". Certainly, Dr. Allotey must have come across what the Osagyefo said, that he has "directed the Atomic Energy Commission to investigate and expand research on the possibilities of solar energy, which is already going on at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology". Neither Dr. Allotey nor our leaders who came after Dr. Kwame Nkrumah heeded what the Osagyefo said in 1964 about developing solar energy. Our leaders failed to research solar energy and other alternative sources of renewable energy, and did not follow energy policies like giving us tax breaks to allow Ghanaians to install their own PV systems.

I will continue to dream of nailing a rooftop energy system to the Ampadu family houses at Kwahu-Obo and Nkawkaw, weather solar technology "is not quite proven yet"

To quote the famous Harvard biologist Professor E. O. Wilson, "sometimes a concept is baffling not because it is profound but because it is wrong." And fellow Ghanaians, I am afraid our renowned Mathematician and Physicist, Professor Emeritus Francis Kofi Ampenyi Allotey is dead wrong when he asserted that solar energy is not "proven to be completely reliable in resolving energy deficiencies." Many people in both the developed and developing world will disagree with that assessment.

Marcus Ampadu

A historian, an educator, a futurist,an environmentalist, a culturalist, I seek to emphasize the importance of culture in determining our behavior. I have problem with neo-classical economics, because it does not take into account the calculation of externalities; it avoids green accounting, therefore my preference is ecological economics. I worry about the future generations of Ghanaians.

I can be reached at or