For World Water Week, Oxfam Engineering Adviser Brian McSorley reflects on the achievements of the Global Solar Water Initiative and the potential of solar water pumps to transform lives:
Solar power offers so many possibilities for development and humanitarian aid, from lighting, to internet connectivity and water provision. Why rely on diesel fuel -which is expensive, difficult to source in remote areas, to power a generator, which is a complex piece of mechanics, that frequently breaks down with skilled expertise and spare parts hard to find?
Less than six years ago (2012), Oxfam installed the first solar water pumping system in Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya. At the time Dadaab was already 20 years old and recognised as the largest refugee camp in the world with a population of nearly half a million people.
Since then, a two-person team has visited 55 camps and communities, conducted training workshops in eight countries and addressed technical queries from 80 organizations, across five continents.
By analyzing 140 different water schemes, we have found that switching to solar will pay for itself within four years, and in some circumstances, solar is cheaper than a diesel generator from day one.
Over the life time of these systems solar will be 40-90% cheaper.