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Solar Power Becoming Cheaper than Traditional Fuels

Jacinta Auma shuffles slowly into her dim, mud-walled house, sits down, kicks off her sandals and switches on a light and a small television—a little miracle in this rural, deeply traditional corner of western Kenya. An estimated two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa's population lack electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. To cope, many have long used kerosene-powered generators, but they are not only unhealthy and environmentally destructive, but also unsustainable.

Auma’s house is powered by an alternative source of energy: Every day, she lines up a solar panel outside her home, where it soaks up sunlight. The energy the panel gathers charges the batteries that power all her electrical devices.

Until recently, solar power has been elusive for most here because of its high costs and unpredictability. But recent advancements have led to solar cells that are less expensive, sturdier and able to produce more wattage from the sunlight they absorb. In addition, because Kenya is equatorial, it’s bombarded with sun year-round. Already, 14 percent of Kenyan households use solar as their primary lighting and charging source, according to a 2015 study by the global research consultancy InterMedia.

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