Onto the Future: Solar Energy in Sudan

Serving the Environment, Development and Agricultural Sectors

 “We are now seeing what we had started is beginning to materialize ”, said engineer Adel Jaafar Arbab, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Resources, Fishery and Irrigation in Sudan’s Northern State. It is a look of optimism and hope to move forward in alternative energy projects in the Northern State, where a wind energy project has recently been signed between the Government of Sudan and the United Nations Development Programme. Work is currently underway to prepare a draft document of solar energy pumps for the purpose of irrigation.

In this story, we shed light on a small part of the stages of preparation and technical information gathering for building one of the large projects through UNDP and how to engage into true cooperation with donors, partners and beneficiaries in order to maximize the benefit for all. The northern State is characterized by favorable climate for cultivating many strategic crops. The State is known for its high productivity of wheat, in addition to beans, spices and horticultural crops. The State has the two largest water bodies in Sudan; they are part of Lake Nubia and Lake Merowe Dam which can help provide irrigation water from the surface wells adjacent to the two water bodies.

The northern State is large and sprawling, and is home to Nile Islands and vast arable land. Projects are located away from the high and low pressure lines, thus the cost of providing electricity in the traditional  manner is very high, forcing farmers to depend entirely on diesel –powered water pumps, which affects  the environment and is very expensive.

Solar energy- powered pumps project for irrigation in the Northern State:

 Diesel pump with negative impact on the environment and high cost for operation, fuel and spare parts.

The idea behind the project is to replace the diesel-powered water pumps currently used in agricultural schemes with solar energy- powered ones whose lifespan is now roughly 25 years without having operation costs, such as fuel and spare parts. The project will also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide resulting from the burning of diesel fuel.

The overall project cost amounts to $4.8 million donated by the Global Environment Facility covering the costs of the necessary studies, experts and installation of 28 solar energy pumps to be used as illustrative fields for introducing farmers to the functioning of solar energy pumps, and for training on pump’s operation and maintenance in both the public and private sectors. Part of this amount will be deposited with the proposed finance portfolio to motivate other participating banks to finance  1422 units during the second phase of the project’s implementation within the next 4 years starting 2015 .

 The team on a field visit to a diesel pump on a Nile Island in the Northern State

A number of visits were conducted  to the Northern state by a team comprising the Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity, the Sudanese Electricity Distribution Company, the Ministry of Agriculture in the Northern State, UNDP, and national and international consultants and experts. The purpose of those visits was to get an insight from farmers regarding the proposed project and to identify their needs and experiences in preparation of the project document. The visits also aimed to hold consultative meetings with researchers, agricultural associations and banks in order to have asses their reservations relating to the proposed principles for implementing the project. The visit also aimed to collect information for the economic and technical feasibility studies on solar energy pumps.

In order to ensure the continuity and sustainability of this project , a meeting was held with the Director of the Bank of Sudan and bank managers in the State in order to discuss the ways and possibilities of financing farmers in the advanced stages of the project.

Different stakeholders were involved at the different stages of the design of the project document, in order to boost the success of the project and its goals.