By Hideharu Tachibana, Senior Representative
Japanese and Algerian scientists will test the feasibility of using solar energy for power transmission across the Sahara desert.
In 2008, Japan launched the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) program. SATREPS is jointly administered by JICA and Japan's Science and Technology Agency (JST), and it promotes international joint research to address pressing global challenges, such as climate change, infectious diseases, and natural disasters.
SATREPS involves partnerships between researchers in Japan and researchers in developing countries who work together on three- to five-year projects. The program aspires to advance understanding and technology to tackle critical global issues, and it strives to build the human resources and research capacity of developing countries to use science and technology to address their development challenges. With the SATREPS program, JST uses research contracts to support research costs incurred in Japan, while JICA supports project implementation costs in developing countries through its technical assistance budget.
One exciting example of a SATREPS project is the Sahara Solar Energy Research Center (SSERC) project in Algeria. Although photovoltaic power generation by solar cells has grown rapidly in recent years, photovoltaic electricity still makes up only one percent of the energy supply. However, to effectively address climate change, there is a need for a paradigm shift in the global energy production/transport system from the current fossil fuel/tanker base to nature-dependent renewable energy.
With this perspective, JICA and JST, in collaboration with the University of Tokyo, are working with Algerian counterparts to establish a Sahara Solar Energy Research Center (SSERC) at the University of Science and Technology of Oran (USTO). The Research Center will serve as a base for collaboration between North Africa and Japan for innovative research on solar photovoltaic systems and power transmission.
The SSERC project has set several ambitious targets, including an exploration of technology to utilize the Sahara desert as a new energy resource for silicon and solar power; research and development for innovative solar grade silicon purification processes; deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at Oran and Saida, at the north edge of the Sahara, for PV application and durability tests; feasibility studies on PV power transmission across the desert; and education and training programs in new energy engineering between the Japanese and Algerian universities. It is a bold agenda, but we are hopeful that the project will yield promising results.
At JICA, we think that enhancing access to climate change technology for developing countries is a key element of any effective international response to global climate change. This Sahara Solar Energy Research Center project in Algeria is a prime example of our efforts to support research and innovation in developing countries through collaboration between developed country scientists and developing country scientists, which we view as a "win–win" partnership to address a global challenge, advance technology, and build capacity.
JICA supports developing countries with this approach because we are firm believers that science, technology, and innovation can drive economic growth, help solve social and environmental problems, and reduce poverty.