The Moon can be harvested for solar energy – Don
Many Nigerians leave their homes without bothering to listen to weather forecast. To many, the meteorological information contained in the forecast holds little or no importance. In this interview with Sunmola Olowookere, the Head of Department, Meteorology and Climate Science, School of Health and Mineral Sciences, Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA, Prof. Ahmed Adedoyin Balogun sheds light on how to boost Nigeria power sector.
An Applied Meteorologist by profession with expertise in Agro Meteorology, Bio Meteorology, Water Resources System, Climate Change Impact and Adaptation believes that Nigerian government need to develop political will in order to turn around the nation’s power sector. Excerpts:
What does Meteorology and climate science entails?
It entails the study of weather and climate and its application to our everyday life. Weather is the current state of the atmosphere while climate is an aggregate of weather. You can say its sunny or rainy; that’s weather. But dry season which is an aggregate of dry period is what we call climate. That does not mean that it would be dry everyday. But that is the climate; an agregate of weather over a long period of time.
How long have you been in this profession?
Well, if you count it along with my training years, it is 33 years. But if you exclude my training years, it is 26 years.
Since you have been in this profession, what are the notable inventions that you have recorded in this department?
A lot, you see the field of Meteorology in itself is like a service provider. It is until recently that it was no longer popular here. In developed climes, nobody leaves their homes without listening to the weather forecast because of the way mother nature operates there. Here we are blessed, we don’t have tornadoes, hurricanes, avalanches or snowstorms. But in other places, they have it. Here , we have dust storms.
In order to avoid damage to lives and properties, meteorological information; which we call forecast is what we provide and its called climate services for the protection of lives and properties.
And there is no facet of human endeavour or the economy that the weather does not influence; be it commerce, health, tourism, agriculture, water resources, energy, our industry or engineering, they are all driven by the weather. But here, we have not developed to the point where we will be paying attention to that weather inputs until problem arises. Take for instance, the issue of the 2012 flooding, it was not just the blocking or that the rain was much. It was because people built houses in what we call flood plains. If there is a 100 years return period rain, that rain can only come once in 100 years, we have different time frames for such rains; some 5 years, some 10 years.
In such instance, we will not know the magnitude of such rain until it comes if we are not prepared. But if we have meteorological information, we will be prepared and lives and properties will be safeguarded.
Regarding inventions, there have been a lot. We have one in terms of improvement in measurement. If you don’t have measurement or weather data, you will not be able to measure correctly or predict accurately in providing those services. But if you have the data, then it is easier because it is a physical and mathematical problem. So here we are focused on the physics and the mathematics of the atmosphere including its chemistry, biology and geography.
Apart from that, has there any particular invention in FUTA that you can point to?
It is the improvement in our forecast. Inventions can be hardware also. We now have models that can predict. In forecasting, we have short range forecast; which is under 48 hours. We have medium range; which is between 5 to 10 days. We also have long range forecast; which can be above 2 or 3 weeks. You can now see different kinds of people who need that information to take decisions.
Now, has there been any invention regarding electricity?
Yes, in our own case now, we use hydro power, that is a function of availability of water at the dams from which we are converting energy. So if there is no rain, the dam will be low and the energy available will be less, that’s one.
With regards to energy, we can also tell you when you can harness renewable energy in terms of where there are strong winds. It can be used to generate wind energy. Where we have more sunshine particularly in the north, you can use it to generate solar energy.
Have you being doing that?
Of course yes. It is called mapping. It is also a function of availability of data. If you have the data and someone says he wants to set up a renewable generating plant; be it solar or wind, they know where to go.
Can you point to any organization or individuals that you have been rendering those services to?
Like a body, National Electricity Regulating Council. There is another one that is handling the modularization of energy generation. There is also the body handling the renewable energy. It is a national body. We provide services to these organizations.
Can you recollect the names of these organizations?
No, I cannot recollect their names. There have been private investors who are planning to invest in this state who come to us for information or working with them to develop their proposals.
Are you well funded?
We are not well funded. Whatever we do has been from private sector support or personal support out of passion. That is, you make personal sacrifice to contribute to growth. Even the government’s TETFUND cannot scratch the surface of a serious research work. So you have to be resourcesful. It is the resourcefulness of the scientist that will get the work done and not the availability of resources.
There was a scientific discovery whereby the Moon can be harvested to generate electricity, how true is this?
It is very true. As we speak, they are already doing it. The UnitedvStates of America government is spending money on it and NIRSA is already working on it and most of the satellites are fixed. In fact, by 2020, people will start living on the Moon as far as USA is concerned. So they have perfected it. Now, there are different sources of energy. One is solar. Because the Moon is also part of the solar system that orbits the Sun, that is why sometimes there is eclipse when the earth is between the Moon and the Sun. So we have the eclipse of the Sun or of the Moon. It is because during their transversing around the Sun, they face each other so the harvesting of solar energy as we harvest it here is being done in the Moon. But because the Moon is closer, it has access to more energy as it will get to those who are near it before it goes to those who are farther away. That’s the bottom line, so solar energy is being harvested, so it is no longer a question of “can”.
Have you witnessed any instance where the energy from the Moon was harvested?
Like we said, the satellite are being powered by the solar energy there. It also has strong winds, tides. Anything that can move around something else, the energy from it can be harvested. Just like we have strong winds here, they have lunar winds that is more than ours. Tornadoes, hurricanes, stronger wind than ours. Rather than letting it destroy things, you can harvest that energy and convert it to electricity. There is solar, lunar and helium. They are talking about it now which is a rare gas lighter than hydrogen. They are using it as it is common on the Moon than here.
Considering the fact that the Moon appears periodically and it is not as visible as the Sun, what would you say about the feasibility of the project?
See, the moon is a satellite, the Sun is a source. The Moon is like the earth, it responds to the energy it receives from the Sun. That’s why all of them are going round the Sun. They take energy from the Sun. Just like the earth, it is not a source, it is a satellite around the sun. The only thing is that because of its own composition, the way it will respond to the energy received from the Sun is different from the way the earth will do. Even its gravitational movement is different. If you are in the Moon, you will be floating. There is no gravity but people that will live on the Moon will have a system that will balance the force of gravity and they will be able to walk. They will wear a jacket that will allow them to counter the force of gravity.
If FUTA is to embark on such a project, is the expertise there?
The expertise is there, only money is not there. America that is going there, do you know how many men and rockets they have lost? Yet, they did not stop. Kennedy said after Russia sent a man who landed on the Moon, they too will send a man there and they did. Do you know how many lives were lost before they succeeded? Do you know how much was spent on building satellites and rockets? Can we invest such huge sums of money in that kind of project here,? If we can, then we can. If we can’t, then we can’t.
From your findings, when did harvesting energy from the Moon start?
It started as far back as the 60s. When they first landed a man on the Moon because they harvested the solar energy there.
What would you say is responsible for Nigeria still depending on the same source of electricity for decades?
How would you explain that?
The Bible says ” my people perish because they lacks wisdom.” When a person lack wisdom, what will happen? Why did he not have knowledge? It is because he is stupid. If you say knowledge is expensive, try ignorance. That is what we are getting here. A parent that does not invest in the education of his children, those children will eventually sell his house when they grow up to be nuisance. It is the same thing here. When you have a situation where everything is fire brigade, no planning. When your population is 1000, in the next 10 years, the same facilities you have for 1000 population is still the same. Now that you are 200 million, the damage is so huge that it cannot be handled in one swoop.
If you were the president, how would you solve Nigeria’s electricity problem?
I will modularize it. I will privatize it just like the communication sector.
Beyond the current privatization of the sector?
It is because they gave it to the wrong people. People who know nothing about it . They shared it on a political or familial level. And not on expertise. They go there to make money and not that there were teething problems that needed to be fixed before they start making money and they are in a hurry.
There are places that just a firewoods can power. We call them baomas generator. So all you need are woods that you would either use to do a boiler that will use heat that and be converted to electricity. They don’t have much to power in those places so you can modularize those villages. They are not on the grid, if they were, they could be taken out and modularized. If there were excess from those places, they could be pumped to other areas where there are deficits. Look at the resources around these places. If there is a river, dam, you can generate energy from those resources.
In China, there is a street that trailers pass through. Have you ever been in a small car and a big trailer passes, you will hear a “whoosh” sound. It is called a drag. That sound is energy. So they put small wind turbines there to catch the energy. That is what they used to generate electricity to power their street lights. The energy from the moving trailer is harnessed. Now do I have to go to the moon to do that? It is part of planning that they force all trailers to pass that route so that they can generate electricity. Governance is all about planning.
In proffering solution to the problem, do you see local engineers making headway?
Yes, the private sector would make a headway. Somebody would just said I want to solve this problem and make money. He will get villages that are ready to pay and supply them. He then put something in the village that would allow them to generate income and pay for those services.
He may put a farm there and employ them. He then provides the services and take it out of their salary without hurting them. He would have done it successfully.
Apart from that, do you foresee any other means?
In this country, anything that has government’s hand in it cannot succeed.
Why is it that solar energy that we use is being imported?
It is because we don’t have the technology.
Or you mean the political will?
It is the political will that will drive the technology. Kennedy said I want a man on the Moon. What will it take? Our senators get N30 million monthly, those that can do the work cannot get N30,000 naira. This is why we do not have the technology. How come some people are mining gold in Zamfara illegally? These thing can be seen on satellite. They know that gold is there. So they are mining gold.