Saturday, November 26, 2011

Solar PV powered energy kiosks

Solar powered energy kiosks are the latest and most innovative example of how renewable energy based off-grid systems are a powerful tool for creating employment through self- sustainable business centers and small enterprises.

Thanks to renewable energy, these ICT centers can offer a wide range of services, such as:
  • Office applications (printing, scanning...), email and internet access.
  • Mobile and solar lattern recharging.
  • Community learning and entertainment center (e.g.watching a movie or a football match)
  • Hair cutting and clipping salon.
  • Soap making facility for local women.
  • Milling facility.
Additionally, value added services can be also provided, being education the most important in this category through the organization of workshops and training courses (computer fundamentals, welding workshop,etc)

The Ducht company Nice International is a pioneer in the development of sustainable ICT services centers in Sub-Saharan Africa. These NICE-centers are operated by local entrepreneurs on a franchise basis.

Another good example can be found in Kenya, where Dr. Izael Pereira, in cooperation with the UNIDO Kenya Renewable Energy Program has completed the implementation of a pilot project of an ICT kiosk powered by a 5 kW hybrid wind-solar system. It is interesting to highlight that this project incorporates an additional approach. That is, the mini-grid also provides electricity for external loads, such as a hospital, a school and a few households. Below can be found a chart with the distribution of loads:

This approach allows to introduce the concept of backup loads. It is observed in the chart that 50% of the mini-grid capacity serves the ICT loads (main load), while the other 50% powers the rest of consumers. In practice, this configuration may enhance the energy efficiency of the system since allows to make use of the energy surplus inherent to every off-grid system. Through the application of energy management techniques, like pre-paid meters linked to the charge status of the batteries, the daily load profile may become more homogeneous.

All the above results in a increase of the incomes and thus the profitability of the project, allowing this business model to be self-sustainable.

6 months income generation

In brief, these solar kiosks can provide substantial benefits to the local communities, stimulating the creation of small enterprises and providing services to the local communities that improves their living conditions (like access to the information, education and entertainment)

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