To begin with, we are proud to say that we crossed both countries all-electric charging solely with our 60m2 solar panels. Just like we did in Mauritania, Senegal and the Gambia. In this article we happily share how we did this as it was an amazing experience. In addition, we were surprised by the beauty of the countries as well as the history of the capital city Bissau. Jan van Maanen gave us a glance of his life story.
In Guinea Bissau, we visited a very interesting sustainable initiative, where they restore the mangroves. The days after we were invited to the home of a Dutch entrepreneur who is now living in Bissau for over 40 years. Jan van Maanen became a famous man in this capital thanks to all he has done here. It was so interesting to hear his story and learn more about the country we were driving through. If you are interested as well, he wrote a very nice book about it. Easy to read, inspiring, and educational at the same time. One thing we can say for sure; he had a very unique and interesting life so far! Unfortunately, the book is only available in Dutch.
The impact of the landscape
Compared to the previous countries, we experienced new challenges while solar charging our expedition car.
In Guinea Bissau, most areas are covered with full-grown mangroves or cashew forests. Both result in shade and no place to charge. This however was not a real problem as we always found a nice spot in the end. Football fields were a big part of these solutions. The challenges we did have were falling leaves, that were blown on our panels generating shade. We often stood up to remove them all to increase our yield.
In Guinee, there was other flora than cashew trees, but with the same result; less space for our panels. Here we often found a spot at an excavation or where the forest was burned. This last solution made us a bit worried. As it was sad to see how many square meters were burned. We don’t know how and why, but it did not look good at all.
Two other challenges we had in both countries were high clouds resulting in shades on our solar panels, or smoke from fires that were man-made to burn forests or waste. This resulted in the fact that we had to work a little harder to reach the maximum yield. In addition, our maximum yield of the day was never as high as expected. The highest we achieved was +45%, while we are more south now than ever so we should be able to set new records!
One last fun fact, Guinea Bissau was the first country where we decided to not dust our panels, but wash them a little to remove the very fine dust. This worked very well! We were inspired to do so as during our visit at Jan van Maanen he let us know that he washed his solar often because of this dust. It increased our yield for sure, Because of high thin clouds and different orientations of our panels when charging we can unfortunately not say how much exactly.
The response of the locals
Even more, compared to the previous three countries, locals were interested in our, to them unknown, techniques; the electric car as well as the solar panels. They really understood the potential of these techniques for their future. Therefore it was just so fun to explain to them how it all worked.
Availability of electricity
In both countries, electricity was not everywhere available, and if it was, it was almost never renewable energy. The capital city of Bissau is 100% provided by electricity by a Turkish ship lying off the coast of Bissau, the electricity is made with generators heavy fuel oil. Solar panels are not something you often see. In villages, they sometimes have one, and in cities, some companies have a bit more but this is more an exception instead of a regularity.
Another challenge they have in both countries is that electricity is expensive (0,45 Euro per kWh) and the power often goes down. Some people have a generator for these circumstances. In some villages where no grid is provided, they use a generator for all their needed electricity.
Because of all the above-mentioned factors, we were happy that for us it was not needed to request electricity from others. We could fulfill our needs ourselves.