Decentralized micro-grid solar power could be the ideal solution for rural communities that lack electricity.
African nations are making great strides regarding solar power, but most of the progress is due to large, grid-connected systems, and rural communities risk being left behind. After all, 84% of people without electricity live in rural areas, and 95% of that population lives in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Micro-grids fulfill multiple economic, environmental, and humanitarian goals.
A decentralized micro-grid (or mini-grid):
- requires less land than a large, utility-scale project
- suffers less transmission loss because it serves only a 1-2 kilometer area
- provides electricity just like a traditional grid connection
- isn’t limited to lighting. Applications include commercial use, water filtration, sanitation, and communication systems.
So why are current renewable energy investments in Africa all but ignoring off-grid and micro-grid opportunities? A rural system requires batteries to ensure stable power. Without the ability to capitalize on economies of scale or to access the broader financing market, small, rural systems are unattractive to large solar development firms and unfeasible for small firms. We feel that with proper planning, however, governments can ensure that all of their citizens benefit from renewable energy through the use of micro-grids.