Sunday, October 28, 2012

3rd Symposium Small PV-Applications - Rural Electrification and Commercial Use

Next Symposium on Small PV applications will take place again in the beautiful Ulm (Germany), in June 2013. Straight after this conference, the Intersolar is being organized again in Munich, so it is an excellent combination for those interested in the latest developments of the PV industry but also in the state of the art of small applications for remote and rural areas.

The period for submission of abstracts is open now and will end on January 4, 2013.

This event is held every two years and in the latest edition covered topics as exciting as:

  • Success of Rural Electrification by Solar PV systems in Bangladesh
  • Field evaluation of PV rural electrification programs in South America
  • Rural electrification with Solar Home Systems in the Amazon Region
  • PV charging enhancement of SHS using Super-capacitors
  • Economic assessment and design optimisation of PV-battery systems in off-grid applications
  • And many others!

Main topics for next year conference are:
1. Electricity supply for remote rural households away from the national grid (Solar Home Systems)
2. Provision of electricity to public institutions such as schools, clinics, churches, mosques and temples, administration offices, water pumping systems or street lighting.
3. Electricity for industrial use and income generating infrastructure (telecommunication equipment, grain milling, welding, food preservation, meteorological stations or remote sensing)
4. New concepts for integrated “over-the-counter PV products” often called “pico-systems” (solar lanterns, solar radios, mobile phone chargers, etc.)
5. Electricity supply for urban households as backup to increase reliability
6. Components such as charge controllers and batteries or other alternatives for energy storage
7. Policy, financial aspects and market development for off-grid PV (government programs, incentives, testing facilities, etc.)

  • Components, including energy storage
  • Systems
  • Costs
  • Maintenance, quality assurance
  • Capacity building, distribution channels, ownership
  • Financing
  • Market development
Looking forward to meeting you there!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Renewable World: Tackling poverty through renewable energy

Renewable World, a registered international non-profit organization, works in Africa, Asia and Central America to tackle poverty through the provision of affordable renewable energy in remote, off-grid settings.  The organisation focuses on working with the “poorest of the poor” i.e. with communities who presently cannot afford or are not serviced by private energy providers, and for whom a lack of energy is a serious impediment to economic and social development.

Renewable World works in partnership with NGOs, governments and private companies with experience of community development, and good local relationships. Renewable World provides partners with a combination of financing, capacity building and knowledge sharing to enhance effective implementation of off-grid renewable energy services (wind, hydro, solar and biogas). Business proposals are designed in consultation with communities and impacted individuals to ensure they are appropriate for their needs. End users pay a fee for energy supply set at a price point appropriate for their income level. The organization promotes the effective productive use of energy to enhance local income generation levels, to assist end users to pay for the energy.   

Over 1.3 billion people worldwide cannot access electricity. Indoor air pollution from paraffin, wood, grass or animal dung used for lighting and heating kills nearly 2 million people every year, mainly women and children. Renewable World’s work transforms lives. Energy increases household income, provides access to information, enables communication and trade, supports the establishment of new income generating ventures and stimulates enterprise. Energy improves education as children are able study in the evenings, and schools can open later for adult education. Energy allows the refrigeration of medicine in local clinics increasing access to healthcare, and the pumping of clean water direct to households improving sanitation.  The use of clean lighting and cooking sources reduces indoor air pollution and respiratory diseases.   

Renewable World’s unique relationship with the Renewable Energy industry allows it to leverage funds, skills, expertise and resources to support and develop its work.

Renewable World is proud to be supported by over 50 companies and organisations in the Renewable Energy Industry and supply chain. Our sincere thanks to all, including our ‘Friends’: Dong Energy, SKM, SSE Renewables and Ampair and Major Donors: EWEA, International Power GDF Suez, RenewableUK, Statkraft and Baringa Partners


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“Distributed Mini-Grids” Concept: Energy Management through Frequency Control

One of the advantages of mini-grids against other decentralized solutions, like stand-alone systems or Solar Home Systems, is the possibility of implementing energy management strategies in order to optimize the efficiency of the global system. If we ask to the users within a small community powered by SHS, for instance, we would probably find out that some of them do not use all the daily energy delivered by their systems whilst there are another ones that are not fully satisfied, since they would like to have more energy every day. These individual energy needs can also vary depending on the daytime, the day of the week or even the season. And this gap between production and consumption may become more dramatic when it affects to the amount of energy consumed (sold) in rural communities, where the monthly revenues from energy sales have to ensure the long-term operation of the plant.

So, if the target is to share energy among the users of individual systems to increase the global efficiency, how we could upgrade a cluster of stand-alone systems to a mini-grid with the minimum cost?

During the last PV-Hybrid and Mini-Grid Conference held in Chambéry (France), the Swiss company Studer-Innotec presented the case of a small community in the Swiss Alps. That community is composed of 32 chalets and the majority is powered by individual solar systems. Not all houses are occupied at the same time and, looking globally to the system, it was observed that there was a lot of solar energy production lost and therefore, a very low efficiency. In this context, the presentation by Studer described a method to use together many inverters, some acting as current sources and some as voltage sources. That is, a mini-grid of many individual Solar Home Systems (SHS) or also called a Distributed Mini-Grid (fig.1)


As introduced above, the goal is to share advantages but not problems and with that purpose, a special arrengement is implemented in each individual inverter to decide when it shares energy with the mini-grid or not.

How does it work?

A frequency control strategy has been implemented for this small community, what means that no information is carried by the voltage. Why frequency control? Because is a very robust information carrier since is not influenced by the quality/lenght of the LV line. Thus, there is a standard 230 V line but with a frequency varying from 48 to 54 Hz. And what is more important, no other communication between the individual systems is required.

To implement this strateggy, a central inverter (VSI) is added in order to provide the the voltage and the frequency to the island grid. The VSI sets a frequency to the grid and slightly modifies it around 50 Hz, as described above.  Around this common point, the existing distributed inverters-chargers in all different houses are interconnected through a LV single phase line and act as current sources (CSI), being able to measure the value of frequency set by the VSI. Accordingly, the CSIs sychronize on the LV line and push or pull current on it without trying to modify the voltage. This is function of the frequency measured on the line and the status of their own batteries: from the measured frequency, they can deduce the battery voltage of the central inverter (VSI) and compare it ot their own state of charge (see fig. 2) This comparison allows knowing if one distributed inverter has more or less energy than the central one and then each one can follow predetermined energy managament rules.

Fig. 2

Energy Sharing Rules

Under this strategy, decisions are decentralized (every CSI applies the rules for itself without knowing what the others are doing) but the rules were chosen so that the global system works in a coherent way to meet the goals of system optimization and losses minimization. In this regard, the logic implemented in each distributed inverter follows some parameters (see fig.3) Some of the most interesting are:

User energy limit:  there is a quota of energy allocated for each user. Once it is gone, that individual system is disconnected to the mini-grid and obliged to work in standalone mode unless there is enough energy available in the global system (f > 51 Hz)

User power limit: every user is allowed to take a quota of power from the LV line. Above this value, the CS inverter has to add power from its own battery.

Excess energy of a CSI: when the battery voltage is higher than the battery setpoint, then the distributed inverter feeds the mini-grid with the excess power. This is done by setting the inverter battery voltage setpoint a little bit under the setting of the solar charge controller.

P.O. Moix, N. Zuchuat (Studer-Innotec); "A mini-grid of individual Solar Home Systems": A Distributed Mini-Grid. Concept and test site in Switzerland"; 6th European Conference on PV-Hybrids and Mini-Grids.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Course on Renewable Energies for Decentralized Systems

As a contribution to addressing some of the most pressing needs of DCs and countries in economic transition, and taking into account the new globalization context and the opportunities created by advanced applied sciences and adequate advanced technologies to provide beneficiary countries with innovative solutions, ICS is organizing a dedicated Summer Course on Renewable energies or decentralized systems: supporting tools and best practices for green energy and sustainable development in collaboration with UNIDO, the ALMA Graduate School of the University of Bologna, the Politecnico di Milano and the ISF (Ingegneria senza frontiere Milano) to be held in Trieste from 4 to 8 June 2012.

The Summer Course is addressed to 18 young students, mainly from African countries but also from other countries, following an International Green Energy MBA programme at the ALMA Graduate School of the University of Bologna. Lecturers (14 professionals) are mainly professors from the Politecnico di Milano and the University of Trieste besides ICS international experts.

The Summer Course will focus on specific topics related to key areas such as energy access, renewable energies and energy efficiency in industry. The objectives are:

• To provide a theoretical and factual framework for identifying and selecting renewable energy technologies and appropriate RE options

• To share experiences and casestudies including socioeconomic impacts in addition to

technological development through handson exercises

• To provide a forum for discussion on the particular challenges and appropriate strategies for sustainable industrial development in DCs, with a particular focus on energy

• To share experiences and stories among representatives of the participating countries

• To expose the studenttrainees to uptodate technologies and provide them with all necessary information on additional training opportunities.

And the main topics of the Summer Course are will be:

• Access to affordable energy in developing countries

• Decentralized energy for productive activities

• Role of international organizations in development and energy access

• Sustainability and economic growth: creating income and protecting the environment

• Introduction to renewable energy policies, technology trends and potential

• Technology transfer: adaptation and sustainability

• Selection of RE technologies, lowcarbon technologies

• Industrial energy efficiency

• Best practices in renewable energy utilization in industry

• Assessment and planning of resources including GIS technology.

Through the link below you will get access to the scheduled webcasts of the event:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

1st International Conference and Exhibition on Off-Grid Renewable Energy

The Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) are jointly organising the 1st International Conference and Exhibition on Off-grid Renewable Energy, an official contribution to the UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.
This Conference will be the first major international event focusing on off-grid renewables in developing countries with a special focus on Africa. With the objective of increasing the collaboration between public authorities and the private sector, the Conference's participants will collectively address issues related to sustainable rural electrification.  

A large number of key stakeholders will be present at this event: Energy Ministers, rural electrification decision-makers, worldwide private sector representatives, utilities delegates, international organisations and financing institutions. In summary, a wide variety of participants, all with a role to play in advancing off-grid renewables in developing countries. 

The International Conference and Exhibition on Off-grid Renewable Energy will be a crucial opportunity to:

  • Learn about the current status of rural electrification in Africa and developing countries
  • Discuss the main bottlenecks to a successful scale up of off-grid renewable energies
  • Highlight successful instruments and policies from around the world
  • Share knowledge about innovative financing solutions, technologies and the latest research
  • Meet influential stakeholders from Africa and beyond, decision-makers, and local and international private sector representatives

An Exhibition will take place in parallel with the Conference, to give the private sector the opportunity to further present its products and projects, and offer general stakeholders ample networking opportunities.

For more information:
Alliance for Rural Electrification Secretariat
Renewable   Energy House
 Rue d' Arlon 63-65
1040   Brussels
Tel:   +32 2 400 10 51

ECREEE SecretariatAchada Santo Antonio
C.P. 288, Praia
Cape Verde
Tel: +238 2604630
IRENA Secretariat
C67 Office Building, Khalidiyah (32nd) Street
P.O. Box 236,
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates
Tel : +971 2 4179000

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Outcomes from the Expert Group Meeting: Importance of mini-grid energy systems

Last week I had the pleasure to participate in an Expert Group Meeting on the potential of renewable energy options in off-grid areas in Africa held at ICS-UNIDO facilities in Trieste. The event had a special focus on the importance of mini-grid energy systems and was assisted by 20 participants from both developing countries and industrialized countries.

Main Topics

The main objectives of the meeting were:
  • Further investigate the feasibility and socio-economic impact of the uses of Renewable Energy Technologies (RET) as well as the technological challenges through a round table discussion.
  • Review, identify and select technologies and innovative solutions for decentralized energy production, mini-grid energy systems and the integration of renewable energy systems.
  • Discuss proposals for future initiatives to develop critical mass of locally-trained specialists in developing countries with the required technical skills.
  • Identify topics for training courses and capacity building activities including fellowships and selected host institutions for fellowship projects.
  • Discuss and select subject related papers on renewable energy options in remote areas in Africa for off-grid application and the importance of mini-grid integrated systems to be recommended for publishing or for further investigation.
One of the main conclusions I would highlight is that it is already time to move forward from pilot projects to commercial roll-out. And for this purpose, special attention should be given to the development of innovative and creative business models that along with stable and reliable regulatory frameworks can boost the deployment of renewable energy based decentralized solutions.

Of course there are still some challenges concerning the technical aspects that have to be addressed and require of further research such as load management (check this post) and grid integration. However, technology has reached a high level of maturity, so I am sure we can agree this is the moment to focus the efforts on economic and regulatory issues as mentioned above.

The complete package of presentations and recorded lectures can be downloaded from this link:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The influence of the Utilization Factor on micro-grids

The combination of Output Based Aids (OBA) and a stable regulatory framework is the most powerful tool to boost the deployment of renewable energy projects. The positive impact of the application of feed-in-tariff based programs in some European countries (i.e. Germany, Italy,etc.) during last years and, most recently, the takeoff of the Indian and South African markets endorse this statement.

But OBA mechanisms are not only valid to stimulate the connection of renewable energy based generation capacity to the existing grid. As presented previously (1), this financing instrument can be also adjusted for the off-grid market and thus, incorporate this kind of applications as part of the energy mix, specially in the less developed world.

In fact, taking a look at this map, it can be observed that the lack of distribution and transmission infrastructures in large areas of sub-Saharan Africa suggest that renewable energy based decentralized solutions, and specially micro-grids, should play an important role when planning the growth of the electrical systems in the coming future.

OBA models for micro-grids, when working in off-grid mode, are usually supported by a Regulated Purchase Tariff that would complement the cost of every kWh generated by the micro-grid that has not been covered by the end-user. Therefore, every micro-utility operator would recover his investment through a monthly fee consisting of:

Incomesmicro-grid = €user + RPT, where:

RPT = fixed value determined by the national/regional regulatory authority
user = is a variable value and depends on the energy demanded/purchased by the end-users
And this is the main difference compared to the OBA schemes applied for grid-connected systems. The Utilization Factor, that is to say, the relation between the total energy available and the energy demanded by the users, plays a determining role when forecasting which will be the incomes for a micro-grid operator in a specific period.
How the UF can be improved?
A micro-grid performing in isolated mode is not too different to the way that the national grid works, and faces the same problems, that is, to forecast the demand and sell as much energy as possible with a fixed installed capacity. Some approaches to ease the influence of the UF may be:
  1. Overbooking: connect as many users as possible bearing in mind that if all them decide to consume the maximun energy allowed (let's say 200 Wh/ customer) at the same time, the system would collapse. But this does not frequently occurs, so one can decide to take the risk. However, as the cost of the distribution network may have an important weight into the total cost structure of the micro-grid, it is needed to keep a balance between the costs of the system and the need to ensure a high UF.
  2. Demand side management: along with the above, another good approach is to implement strategies to stimulate the demand when there is an excess of energy (e.g. it is noon and the battery is fully charged) This can be done offering this surplus of energy at a lower price, for example. There are several solutions in the market that allow to apply this type of measures. For example, the Electricity Dispensers developed by the company Trama Tecnoambiental send an alert to the user through a flashing LED when the "low-cost consumption period" is available. Of course, it is also needed to enhance the sensitivity of the user on the energy efficiency.
But maybe the most interesting approach is to combine different types of users within the micro-grid. In the figure below it can be observed that the consumption of individual users can be really difficult to predict,  in terms of the maximum power demanded at a specific time of the day. But the good news is that after an initial observation of their behavior during the first weeks of operation, at least it can be identified that when it takes place the most of the cosumption (from 6 p.m in this case)

Now let’s think of another type of loads, those that can be powered just a few hours per day (o per week), exactly when there is a surplus of energy.  These are the “back-up loads”, for example: a water pump or an ice-making machine.
And finally, bigger customers with a higher and more predictable demand, as schools, health centers or, (that would be perfect) a mobile phone antenna.

In this last category we could also include the so called "Community centers". Several initiatives have been developed in the last year, as previously discussed here (2) It basically consist of a building that houses facilities for providing a wide range of services, such as IT services (internet access, printing, photocopying, etc.), entertainment (TV, video...), sell of electricity (mobile or laptop charging, e..g) or any other activity that requires of electricity. This community centers may become a perfect complement for the "mix of users" needed for making the micro-grid as profitable as possible while providing access to the energy in a more democratic way, even for those that can not afford a connection for their own homes.
So we can agree that one of the main challenges when talking of micro-grids in isolated areas is how to make them as dynamic and flexible as possible in order to provide access to the energy to the greatest number of people while ensuring the profitability of the promotor/operator. And the latter means selling as much electricity as possible!

Additional resources:

(1) Mini-grids, feed-in-tariff and grid parity

(2) Solar PV powered energy kiosks

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mini-grids, feed-in-tariff and grid parity

"With RES incentives of 15 c€/kWh, a feed-in-tariff specifically designed for mini-grids, PV electricity would reach grid parity"

This is the main conclusion of a really interesting paper (1) published by the Joint Research Center (JRC) last July. And that would mean that decentralized PV could become economically feasible for those 600 million people that currently have no access to energy services in Africa, even for those living at a reasonable distance from the existing grid.

The study compares the Levelized Cost of Electricity (€/kWh) delivered by several electrification technologies, such as: PV mini-grids, off-grid diesel generators and grid extension. The calculation attempts to find a comparable unit cost of electricity for the quatification of the Least Cost Option over the lifetime of the systems. For this purpose, up-front costs and operation costs have been evaluated and included in the calculations. Also, innovative research methodologies have been used to facilitate the decision making: spatial mapping, GIS technologies, interpolation of statistical and economic data, etc. Main considerations for the cost comparison are listed below:

Solar resource evaluation and PV  mini-grid characterization: satellite solar irradiation data made using the photovoltaic geographic information system (PVGIS) The main output is the mapping of the estimated cost of electricity (€/kWh) delivered by standard 15 kWp mini-grids in different regions of Africa (fig.1)

Large geographical differences can be observed since electricity cost from PV mini-grid ranges from 0.2 up to 0.55 c€/kWh.

Off-grid diesel generators electricity costs: As opposed to PV systems, where the capital costs are dominant, fuel consumption is the major cost over the lifetime of a diesel generator. For this purpose, the database of internatiotal diesel prices in African countries has been used, showing  large differences depending on national taxes/subsidies. Thus values range between 8 c€/l (Lybia) and 113 c€/l (Malawi) Travel data time integrating transport costs have been combined with the country-based diesel prices to estimate the specific operation costs for each location (fig.2)

Grid extension: The costs of electricity, when considering grid extension, are determined by the load density (households/km2), number of HH conected and line length. Althoug for most of the Sub-Saharan countries this information is not easily available, information on existing distribution and transmission lines have been gathered from freely available databases or regional institutes. Another factors that must be considered when planning for network extension are:
  • Sensitivity of grid electricity markets to global fossil fuel prices and national subsidies
  • Differences in the connection costs depending on customers located in urban or isolated rural.
  • Capital costs of distribution and transmission facilities, that is proportional to both the circuit-length and the rated output of the generation source. And obviously, up-front costs are strongly influenced by country-based labor and material costs (see fig. 3 in this post)
By establishing an electricity cost threshold of 25 and 30 c€/kWh (appropriate according to the average cost of grid electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa) and integrating all the information mapped previously, some interesting conclusions can be obtained (see table below)

But perhaps the main one is that only 5 c€ difference in ability to pay would significantly increase the proportion of regions (see fig.3) where PV would be the Least Cost Option. So for large remote areas, where the extension costs would increase the electricity costs by around 10-15 c€/kWh, PV electricity could become competitive with grid electricity. Although it is extremely complicated to collect data from subsidies for grid electricity, for  most of the countries it can be placed in the range of 12-18 c€/kWh. Why  not subsidize with a similar amount the PV electricity?

As explained above, the analysis also reveals the high sensitivity of the decentralized rural electrification systems to the diesel prices. As fuel is often subsidized by certain African governements, why not also consider to support PV (in the form of feed-in-tariff, for example) and thus avoiding to distort the rural electrification markets?

This study confirms that renewable energy can and must play an essential role to put the energy to the service of the human development, resulting in a long-term sustainable energy mix that make the access to modern energy services affordable to the BoP. Since the lack of valid information with respect to subsidies and taxes, grid-extension master plans, load profiles and socio-economic data is one of the main barriers, the involmement of regional and national stakeholders is seen as indispensable for country-specific evaluations.


S. Szabó, M. Moner-Girona, K. Bodis and T. Huld; "Mapping electrification costs of distributed solar and diesel generation versus grid extension"; JRC and UNEP.
"Renewable Energies in Africa"; JRC Scientific and Technical Reports.
"Technical and Economic Assessment of Off-grid, Mini-grid and Grid Electrification Technologies"; ESMAP Technical Paper 121/07.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pico PV: a real solution for rural electrification?

Pico PV has emerged as a new keyword in rural electrification. Also called Solar Pico Systems (SPS), Pico PV are the younger brothers of Solar Home Systems (SHS) and could enable people in non-electrified areas to get access to modern energy services in cases where the cost is not affordable or the energy demand is too low to be powered by SHS. In this regard, Pico PV can also help to replace current expensive and polluting kerosene lamps and dry cell batteries.
SPS are "Plug & Play" systems typically below 10 Wp and mostly with a voltage not above 12 V. The cost ranges from $2 to $ 200, being most of the times below $100 (check the graph below)

Several innovations over the last years have contributed to the development of Pico PV systems:
·         Fall in the price of PV modules
·         Advances in the development of LED technology.
·         Improvement of the life cycle of modern accumulators
LED technology:
Modern LEDs can provide bright electric light (up to 160 lm/W) with very little electrical power. In this regard, LEDs are up to 15 times more efficient than conventional incandescent lamps and about 3 times more efficient than good CFL lamps. Nonetheless, there are also SPS powering CFL lamps, but it is not very common.

Rechargeable batteries are the most expensive component when considering the cost over the SPS lifecycle. As shown in the picture below, there are a variety of technologies available with different efficiencies, demand in terms of charge controller, lifecycle, etc.

Distribution channels and After Sales Services are required to ensure the access to high quality and certified products, the protection of user rights (warranty claim) and the availability of spare parts and replacement of components (batteries mainly)
A few considerations:
Lead Acid batteries: are usually too heavy compared to the size of a typical SPS and tend to fail due to sulfation.
NiCd: should not be used as Cd is a poison and most of the target countries do not have a proper recycling program
Nickel Metal Hydrate (NiMh): show no sulfation and are also much lighter. Special types of NiMh batteries have a low self-discharge behavior and most of them do not need a charge controller or, if so, only a relatively simple one.
Li-Ion batteries: still remain relatively expensive but are high energy density, so allow more charge/discharge cycles (check LIFePo in the picture above) and also a smaller size. Most of them present an excellent efficiency.
Two different topologies of Pico PV systems are available:
Pico solar lanterns: besides providing light, some of them also provide energy to charge a cell phone or operate a radio.
Pico PV Home Systems: can provide energy for several lights, a radio and charging a mobile phone. Under this configuration, SPS are scalable and so can be extended in case the electricity demand grows over the years. Additionally, this scalability also provides a strategy for financing the system. Instead of paying connection fees and undertaking to pay a fee-for-service every month, users can upgrade their systems gradually when their economic circumstances allow it.
What are the current limitations of SPS in the rural electrification market?
Quality: gates are opening for bad quality products at very low-cost which often relates into higher cost compared to the existing solution (e.g. kerosene) This includes lab and field test according to international standards, product labels, instruction manuals. When talking about Led lamps, this becomes essential. The field tests have revealed that lab tests alone are not enough, since lamps which have been successful in the lab, usually show significant technical problems in the field (5)

That is, Trust Marks are needed.

Consumer education: some results from field surveys show that users often place their solar lamp on a table in their main room (as they did with former kerosene lamps) even if this inhibits an optimal light distribution.  Also it is often that users place the panels in inappropriate places for charging (5)

Recycling and Post Return: Only in Africa the potential market amounts to 300 Million people. The problematic of electrical waste and how to recycle the products have to be integrated into the product assessment yet.
Saturation effect: user willingness to pay is highest for the first kWhs and decreases with the amount of electricity consumed.
Solar lighting as merit good: improving studying conditions, improved air quality and reduced safety risks when replacing kerosene lighting…These social and psychological effects of the use of Pico PV systems that go beyond the easily measurable socio-economic benefits are usually in the mind of policy-makers but has to be “transferred” to the end users through suitable informative campaigns (4)
2012 is the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, but no consensus exist to the date on how to define a minimum service level at which a household can be classified as “electrified”, that is, what is the Basic Electrification Threshold. And also in this regard, what is the difference between lighting and electrification?
Typical SHS and mini-grids based electrification programs provide electricity in the range of 150-200 Wh/day/home. If that is the reference, it seems clear that Pico PV systems are not the solution for the rural electrification challenge. Nevertheless, they can become a perfect complement of those in electrification programs to power the poorest people that cannot afford the cost of the connection fees or are out of the scope of the mini-grid. Also, SPS seems to be a good tool to raise interest among rural people in environmental-friendly and long-term cost effectiveness solutions to power their homes.
However, according to my experience, Solar solutions are often considered as low-cost and low-quality solutions among the rural people, mostly because of bad practices in some projects implemented (not always related to technical issues but to lack of long-term sustainability of the projects) In this context, current situation of  Pico PV market does not help at all to revert this situation and a great effort to define minimum international standards are needed.
Author’s observations
(1) Solar Pico Systems: Problems, opportunities and solutions. Andreas Paul (Phocos AG)
(2) Ways to protect consumers from low quality Pico PV products (GIZ)
(3) Pico PV: Policy implications of a new technology option (GIZ)
(4) Pico PV: An overwiew. Prof. Peter Adelmann (Univ. of Applied Science,Ulm)
(5) How are Pico PV lamps performing under real-life conditions in developing countries? Anna Brüderle (GIZ)
* All the above are papers presented during the 2nd Symposium on Small PV-applications (Ulm, June, 2012)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

6th European Conference on PV-Hybrids and Mini-Grids

The programme for the 6th European Conference on PV-Hybrids and Mini-Grids is now ready and available for download under:

This event is held every two years and is the perfect environment to share experiences and access to the latest trends and researchs in the field of hybrid systems and mini-grids for rural electrification.

Topics of the Conference:
  1. Economical Framework
  2. System Components
  3. Systems Technology
  4. Energy Management and Grid Control
  5. Design and Simulation
  6. Field Experience
This year is the turn of France. The conference location is Chambéry (Savoie) from April 26th to 27th. Chambéry also houses INES, the National Insititute of Solar Energy, and a technical visit will be aranged for those interested.

One day before (April 25th) it will be held a workshop on Energy Management, one of the trending topics when talking about renewable energy grids for rural electrification. Highly advisable.

This is also an unique opportunity for networking, so I really hope to meet you there!

Sunny regards,