Early results from an international survey to pinpoint some of the world's best sites for renewable energy show that the potential for deploying solar panels and wind turbines in some developing countries is far greater than previously supposed, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.
The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA), a four-year old project to map the solar and wind resource of 13 developing countries, has discovered thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy potential in Africa, Asia, South and Central America.
Initial results from the multi-million dollar project are being released in Washington, DC, at an international meeting of scientists and policy-makers organized by UNEP, which is coordinating SWERA on behalf of more than 25 institutions around the world. Since its beginning in 2001, the SWERA project has been developing a range of new information tools to stimulate renewable energy development, including detailed maps of wind and solar resources.
"In developing countries all over the world we have removed some of the uncertainty about the size and intensity of the solar and wind resource," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. SWERA is a good example of international cooperation that can produce a range of positive environmental and social outcomes. "In the case of renewable energy," he added, "knowledge is literally power."
The results have already prompted action in several countries, including Nicaragua, Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Ghana, where more than 2,000 megawatts of wind energy potential were discovered, mainly along its border with Togo. In Africa, this is quite a significant amount, as UNEP estimates the continent needs just 40,000 megawatts of electricity to power its industrialization. The other countries where SWERA has carried out surveys are Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Kenya and Nepal.
Speaking from Washington, SWERA Project Manager Tom Hamlin said the initiative is now under evaluation and will be seeking support to service requests from renewable energy development programmes in other developing countries.
"SWERA has clearly demonstrated that the modest amounts needed to support renewable energy assessments can significantly change the way countries pursue their energy goals," he said.