I have the pleasure to publish below a reaction to my recent article, which reaction I received from a reader. It is interesting to note that Malawi’s largest power producer, Egenco, is taking solar power seriously. I am sure that the projects mentioned in this reaction are but the beginning of more similar projects to come as we continue to vigorously pursue the electrification of Malawi. Solar generation may not be the dominant source of our power but it is clearly making inroads. It would not be a far fetched speculation to state that the future of our energy requirements will be solar.
Just a small reaction to your article published in the Nation on Sunday on 25th October, 2020. Indeed solar provides an alternative source of energy and as a company EGENCO has currently a number of projects on solar that it is implementing. We have a 1.3MW solar off grid at Likoma and Chizumulu. This project which will be commissioned this November (2020) will see the people of the two island now having power for 24 hours. It will reduced our operation costs and logistical challenges especially on the transportation of fuel. We hope it will also spur economic growth for the two islands as people will have power 24/7. The project is completed and ready to start serving the people. We are just finalizing a transmission line to the Likoma grid.
We also have a 20MW project at Nanjoka in Salima. Land for the project was already acquired with all concern people properly compensated.
In line with what you mention, I also wish to inform you that the company embarked on the implementation of the mini-grid solar projects to help out two rural communities of Gumulira in Mchinji and Luwalika in Mangochi. The projects are aimed at increasing rural electrification and improve the livelihood in the communities.
On a different note, our home star, the Sun, where we tap solar energy from, hosts a number of bodies in its neighbourhood. Earth, our home planet, is one of those bodies. A neighbouring planet to us is Mars (we have two immediate neighbours – Venus which is closer to the Sun than us, and Mars situated further from the Sun than us).
Mars happens to be the most visited planet by manmade gadgets. I must state here that that although a plethora of spacecraft have been deployed to Mars, no human being has yet undertaken a trip to the Red Planet.
I have discussed on this column before the extremely hostile nature of Venus. In comparison, Mars appears to be more hospitable to life and scientists believe it may indeed have hosted bacterial life in the past.
It is precisely to find this out that the Perseverance Mission was launched at the end of July this year. Perseverance is a car sized, six wheeled vehicle designed on the basis of its predecessor, Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012 and still roves the surface of the Red Planet sending back to Earth loads of technical data about various aspects of the planet. Like Curiosity, Perseverance will also take many measurements and send valuable data to Earth. It is equipped with a more sophisticated array of instruments than its predecessor.
A few other rovers have successfully landed on Mars before. These include Viking , Spirit and Opportunity. A number of orbiters have also been deployed to Mars, making it the most extensively explored other world to date.
In the launch window that opened this year, three countries have sent their spacecraft to land on different Martian sites or to orbit the planet. United Arab Emirates launched their Mission Hope on 19th July, 2020. On July 23, the Chinese launched their Tianwen-1 Mission also bound for Mars. This Chinese mission comprises an orbiter and a lander.
Perseverance was launched on 30th July, 2020 from Cape Canaveral, United States of America. By the 27th of October, 2020 it had travelled some 235 million kilometres, which is half the distance is expected to travel from Earth to Mars. It is encapsulated in a cruise vehicle from which it must separate when it reaches its destination. It is expected that Perseverance will arrive at Mars on 18th February, 2021 and will land at a carefully selected spot called the Jezero Crater.
Landing anything on another world is far from straightforward. There is always a chance that it can crash land and the precious cargo can go to waste. The same landing manouvres as those which brought down Curiosity onto the Martian surface back in 2012 will be used for Perseverance. Watch this space in February.