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Transforming Water, Energy, and Food Crises into a Nexus Opportunity with Solar PV

2024-01-15

As COP28 approaches, there is a growing focus on supporting local authorities in their efforts towards sustainable energy transition and fostering public-private dialogue. However, the discussions often adopt a silo approach, overlooking the potential of integrated policy actions. RES4Africa advocates for a more holistic approach, where energy, water, and food intersect and interconnect. By recognizing the synergistic relationship among these elements, we can effectively address cross-cutting challenges and achieve long-term emission reduction goals.

 

Solar PV: A Key Driver for ChangeTo unlock the potential of the water-energy-food nexus, solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies play a vital role. Different applications, such as desalination coupled with renewables, PV shading for horticulture, and solar irrigation, offer avenues for transformation.

 

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicts that solar energy will become the dominant renewable source of electricity by 2050. The global cumulative installed capacity of solar PV is expected to skyrocket to 8,519 GW by 2050, compared to a mere 480 GW in 2018. North Africa alone is projected to have 151 GW of installed capacity by 2040.

 

Revolutionizing Water Supply with Solar Desalination

 

Desalination, particularly when combined with solar PV, is a promising technology for sustainable water supply. This carbon-free and energy-efficient approach is especially beneficial for regions where water scarcity and abundant renewable energy resources coexist, like Morocco. With its vast solar energy potential and expertise in renewables, Morocco is well-positioned to adopt solar desalination and significantly reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

 

Not only is solar desalination environmentally friendly, but it is also cost-effective. With the rising prices of fossil fuels and the stable cost of PV, the financial case for solar desalination is becoming increasingly compelling. Morocco has already announced plans to establish nine new plants, which will contribute to a 500% increase in desalination capacity by 2030, with 97% of the new capacity being coupled with renewable sources.

 

Harvesting the Sun Twice with Agrivoltaics

 

Agrivoltaics offers a unique solution that combines solar energy generation and agriculture in the same location, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. By co-locating solar panels and agricultural activities, countries in the southern Mediterranean can harness the power of the sun while addressing water stress and land use competition. This approach is crucial for ensuring food security in the face of a rapidly growing population.

 

Although agrivoltaics is a well-established practice globally, its adoption in the southern Mediterranean remains in its early stages. Pilot projects supported by EU and UN agencies are currently underway in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan to assess the feasibility and efficiency of this approach. To fully embrace agrivoltaics, countries in the region must demonstrate a political commitment by incorporating it into their national strategies, plans, and policies.

 

Countries like France, Korea, Germany, and Japan have already recognized the benefits of agrivoltaics and have made a strategic commitment to integrate it into their energy and agricultural systems. This political support has expedited the implementation of agrivoltaics and garnered public support.

 

In conclusion, solar PV technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way we tackle water, energy, and food crises. By adopting an integrated approach and leveraging solar desalination and agrivoltaics, we can transform these challenges into valuable opportunities for sustainable development. The time to act is now, as we work towards a greener and more inclusive future.  

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