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Solar Mini Grids For Unelectrified Communities

Minigrids systems involve small-scale electricity generation (10 kW to 10MW) and which serves a limited number of consumers via a distribution grid that can operate in isolation from national electricity transmission networks.
They provide clean, reliable and affordable power for last-mile small businesses, smallholding farmers and low-income households to alleviate energy poverty, stimulate sustainable economic growth and combat climate change.

The Problem


Grid electricity is severely unreliable, mired by frequent interruptions and voltage fluctuations. Moreover, expansion of the national grid takes decades and is mostly based on centralised thermal power generation, which is highly carbon-intensive. As a result of lack of stable grid access, rural Kenyans spend up to 30% of their income on polluting and unhealthy fuels, mainly diesel for commercial power and kerosene for household lighting.
Lack of energy access is a fundamental barrier to economic development, notably in preventing commercial activity from taking place. Faced with the high costs of diesel generators, expected to worsen with recent deregulation of diesel prices in Kenya, small business owners have limited business hours and low productivity. This leads to high unemployment and an unsustainable rural-urban migration crisis.

Our Solution


We develop decentralised mini-grid solutions for under-electrified or off-grid users in rural Kenya. We deploy solar PV mini-grids to provide three-phrase AC power, with embedded smart meters to enable remote monitoring.
We use various standardised mini-grid configurations of between 10 and 50 kWp to serve different local needs. We then conduct engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of the mini-grid. Mini-grids are pre-configured and packaged within a shipping container before being shipped to the project site, reducing installation time.
Solarworks East Africa also conducts stakeholder/community engagement to facilitate customer awareness and acquisition. We provide technical training for operators and technicians and entrepreneurial capacity building to help new businesses start up, thereby further stimulating local economic growth.

Benefits

  • Affordable, uninterrupted energy for households, small businesses and farmers, enabling them to significantly increase their income by saving on diesel and kerosene cost, extending working hours and increasing rural economic growth.

  • Multiple smart meter-enabled tariffs for different energy needs.

  • Opportunities for skills training and new employment as technicians, payment collectors, franchisees.

  • Clean electricity, which avoids the burning of kerosene and diesel indoors, reducing the incidence of respiratory diseases and burns.

Technology

The proposed scheme consists of a grid connection through a photovoltaic generator and grid-connected inverter, with the possibility of two-way battery and diesel engine support by using an inverter/charger. When there are surpluses of the system's electricity, the batteries are charged (inverter/charger as a charger). If there is not enough capacity to supply the grid's demand with the photovoltaic generator, the previously stored battery charge (inverter/charger as inverter) will be used. Lastly, it may be necessary to start-up the diesel motor, especially during months of low radiation. This, through the inverter/charger will supply the grid's demand and charge the battery at the same time.

The different elements that make up the minigrid are

  • Photovoltaic generator
  • Grid-connected inverter
  • Stand-alone Inverter/Charger
  • Batteries
  • Diesel engine (optional)