Exploring the Viability of Solar Photovoltaic for Rural Water Supply in Ghana: A Case Study of Agotime-Ziope District of the Volta Region
Availability of good drinking water is a key factor for health and quality of life. In urban locations of Ghana, water from large rivers is abstracted and treated before it is supplied to the urban people by the use of the grid. However access to potable water is difficult in rural communities of the country because these locations are remote from the grid (or they experience unreliable power supply) and water infrastructure. They are however endowed with abundant sunshine (5-8 hours per day with irradiation ranging 3.1-6.5 kW/m2-day), small rivers and streams. In spite of these natural resources, the potable water (from local treatment plants and groundwater sources) coverage in most of these locations is as low as 21%. During the dry season, the water levels reduce and some dry up completely making water and sanitation major development concerns for communities in these locations. This research therefore sought to explore the viability of solar PV water pumping in rural locations of Ghana, using the Agotime-Ziope district as case study. The case-based action research addressed the factors that influence the take up of solar energy for water pumping in rural locations of the country. Both quantitative and qualitative studies were conducted. Quantitative results derived from a questionnaire and qualitative obtained from the interviews conducted with the district officials, stakeholders in the solar industry and villagers in seven specific communities, are presented. The quantitative and qualitative approaches were mixed in the study. Furthermore, a solar PV pumping system for Kporta community was designed, installed and the system’s performance was evaluated in relation to how the people in the community collected water from it. The new PV system supplies adequate water to the people as it was designed, thus demonstrating the viability of solar PV for water supply. This notwithstanding, the system was underutilized by the community; since out of the 1,825,000 litres of water it was designed to supply in one year, only 5.2 % of water was collected from the system in one year. Two reasons are suggested for the low patronage: firstly, the borehole water at Kporta had a high content of magnesium, sulphate and chloride above WHO’s standard values making the water hard and taste salty. Secondly, water is available (free of charge) from the community pond (dam) which is perceived to be better (water is soft and does not taste salty even though unhygienic). On the other hand, in Lume Avete where a PV system supplies high quality safe drinking water (water is soft and does not taste salty) from underground, the community makes maximum use of the system. High upfront PV system cost and lack of awareness of the technology also influence its adoption and wider diffusion. Two frameworks were developed within the thesis; one for the PV system market structure and the other for its financing to address the cost and awareness factors. Within the financing framework are five models namely; 100 % upfront cash payment, fee-for-service, build operate and transfer, donation and PV utilization loan. It is recommended that future research should develop methods to remove salt and dissolved minerals from groundwater in the district and develop a better understanding of how best to supply safe water in rural areas of the country.
- PhD