Solar Nano Grids – A Sustainable Solution For Rural Communities

INTASAVE Energy‘s crowdfunding project has collected sufficient funds to set up the first grid for one of the five target communities in Kenya.
Published: Mon 08 Feb 2016

Over 30 million people in Kenya, 75% of the population, do not have access to electricity. However, this could change. The country boasts abundant solar resources, with annual averages of some of the highest in the world -- well over 5kWh/m2/day available throughout the country.

This rich resource gives Kenya an excellent opportunity for electricity generation using photovoltaic (PV) systems. Stand-alone PV systems represent the least-cost option for electrifying homes and communities in rural areas in Kenya, especially due to the distribution of the population across arid and semi-arid lands that form more than 70% of the country's landmass.

Innovative crowdfunding

In recognising this potential, global environmental nonprofit INTASAVE Energy is installing a series of self-reliant "Solar Nano Grids" (SONGs) which have been specifically designed for communities and households -- and using innovative crowdfunding to do it.

The campaign brings together individuals, organizations, communities and businesses committed to renewable energy for international development.

The first phase of the project focuses on the provision of off-grid household and community power -- including for agri-processing, water pumps and community refrigeration -- to at least five communities to provide power for families to improve lives, health, and the educational attainment of children. This will enable the establishment of small businesses and the creation of local employment.

In the second phase, the project will feature another 75,000 targeted households and around 375,000 people in Kenya.

"The SONGs Campaign will make a significant difference to the lives of people and the prosperity of communities. The introduction of electricity within off-grid communities in the developing world is essential to progress and improved well-being," said I\\\nTASAVE CEO Dr. Murray Simpson. "On a community level, the installation of SONGs enables the creation of businesses and local employment to raise the living standards of communities. It also enables a whole range of health improvements, from the general health and well-being benefits of clean energy replacing kerosene and diesel, to the ability to refrigerate medicines and vaccines and to pump water."

SONGs are deliberately designed to provide power to a small group of households and businesses including agro-processing, mills, water pumps for irrigation and egg incubators.

The systems reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing people’s reliance on harmful and expensive fuels such as kerosene lighting and diesel for power generation.

The crowdfunding campaign aims to raise at least $100,000 in the first 40 days to bring clean electricity to as many communities as possible in 2016. UK Aid has also confirmed that it is now matching every US dollar that is donated

Looking further afield

As the crowdfunding campaign takes off, INTASAVE Energy will expand their work to other countries in Africa, as well as Asia and Latin America where projects are already under development.

The research aims to evaluate the potential of SONGs from social, technical and economic points of view as a more effective means to bring electricity to different types of rural communities than has been possible with solar home system implementations.

The researchers will investigate the energy use patterns (daily, seasonal) and behaviour of these communities within a broader understanding of the multi-scale socio-economic, governance and environmental conditions they face, with an eye toward identifying synergies between various demands for energy (e.g., seasonal agricultural) and solar resource variability.

A self sustaining beneficial enterprise

It is clear that renewable energy and other clean technologies will play a major role in the development of sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions. [Clean Energy Will Help Sub-Saharan Africa Develop] but without a sustainable solution, plans could fall apart rather quickly. For instance, skills transfer is critical for sustainability.[Africa Needs Long-Term Solutions]

Sustainability is central to INTASAVE Energy’s plans, according to Dr Simpson. He explains: “Our approach is scalable, sustainable and recognises the real world needs and desires of people. It’s not a short-term fix or a handout, it is genuinely empowering people to make their lives better. It is vitally important to us that each installation becomes a self-sustaining beneficial enterprise for the families and the local communities and this is why our project is going to succeed where other attempts have struggled to deliver.”


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