Solar power is being provided to remote villages in rural Gabon by means of a ¤20 million project being implemented under the auspices of the state energy ministry. Solar energy systems are being installed by the German company Siemens, in co-operation with numerous small local companies, and will provide power for medical facilities, schools, homes and for street lighting.

Each system comprises a switchgear cubicle with an inverter, a battery charge regulator and lead acid batteries. These are supplied with power from solar panels fitted to the roof of the cubicle housing the remainder of the equipment. The units are being provided to hundreds of villages which currently lack any power supply.

The solar power systems intended for village schools provide a peak ouput of 660 W. The system designed for medical applications provides 550 W and for domestic and street lighting applications the output is 110 W. Medical and school systems provide ac current at 220 V and power is distributed using surface wiring.

Domestic systems provide an output at 12 V dc. In this case the batteries are placed in their steel cubicle inside the hut and the solar cells on a pole outside. The cubicles are hermetically sealed and designed to be vermin-proof. A circuit breaker protects the batteries against short-circuit or overload. Batteries are expected to provide a six-ten year service life.

The units are supplied from Germany as turnkey installations which simply require a concrete foundation. It is hoped that the power systems will raise living standards and improve medical facilities, reducing the infant mortality rate in Gabon from its current rate of 8.7 per cent.