The West Africa solar pioneers (1963-mid 80's): an anthropological inquiry about the memory and narratives of thermic Solar energy in Africa
(Laboratoire Triangle Lyon/ Université Savoie Mont Blanc)
Paper short abstract:
The paper presents a mix historical/ethnological investigation about the first research’s and experimentations in solar energy in Africa, especially in Dakar with the French engineer Jean-Pierre Girardier who did his PhD there in 1963, and create the mix private-public firm SOFRETES.
Paper long abstract:
The paper presents a work in progress, which is a mix historical/ethnological investigation about the first research's and experimentations in solar energy in Africa. The inquiry is empirical but the objective is also epistemological about the place of cultural representations in capacity of innovations and appropriation in energy. We did many interviews with the French engineer Jean-Pierre Girardier, who worked the first during his PhD in Dakar in 1963 on the low temperature thermic water pumps for tropical countries. Girardier tested some models in Senegal during years and created in 1972 the economy-mixed society SOFRETES, which realised many installations (a total near 80) until some "big partners" stopped his activity in 1980. We did also interviews, photographs and films in Senegal during the years 2015/2016, trying to find some "fossils" of the period. What is the memory of this partnership with inclued African scientists, like Albert Moumouni in Niger? Why are so few the mentions of this period and more largely of the non photovoltaic solar innovation? We will show that the answer needs to re-open imagination, discussion and memory about the "low" and decentralised technologies and their possible places and real capacity in civil society and in the south, as did some pioneers even before Girardier, since the end of the 19th century. This is an urgent mission for anthropology and environmental human sciences to show that the future of green energy means not only huge electric solar power stations and very high or "Silicon Valley" technology.
Energy citizenships and prospects for low carbon democracy