Microgrids and mobile tech bring solar power to rural Kenya

Steama.CoIn a dusty trading center at the foot of the Entasopia escarpment in Kenya’s Kajiado County, John Pambio is deeply engrossed in soldering together a customer’s phone at his electronics repair kiosk.

Until nine months ago, Pambio would have had to send the job to a repair shop in Kiserian township 95 km away, due to a lack of power.

But in July 2014, Kenyan renewable energy firm SteamaCo set up a solar microgrid in Entasopia, and Pambio was able to use electrical tools for the first time.

“Now I can handle any kind of repair work my customers require,” he said.

The 24-year-old is one of some 70 people in Entasopia benefiting from SteamaCo’s solar microgrid project, which aims to provide reliable power to residents of the remote area on the southern savannah.



Japanese trading conglomerate Marubeni moves into residential solar

MarubeniOne of Japan’s largest trading companies, Marubeni, which is already involved in both upstream and downstream sectors of PV industry, has entered the domestic market for residential solar.

Marubeni announced yesterday that its offering will include modules, inverters and mounting systems. Typically residential solar in Japan is marketed in complete kit form by most providers in this way.

PV Tech spoke to Alessandro Fujisaka of Marubeni America at PV Expo in Tokyo in late February. Fujisaka said the company’s residential kits will include panels from Chinese tier-one supplier JA Solar, mounting systems by US manufacturer ZEP Solar and inverters by local company Omron.

Solar Power in Space

China wants to build a massive solar power station in space

Solar Power in SpaceMoving away from fossil fuels and towards green energy generation is becoming increasingly important, not just because fossil fuels will eventually run out, but the emissions they produce are choking the atmosphere. That’s why we are seeing huge solar farms being built, but China is considering a much more ambitious project. Chinese scientists want to construct a massive solar power station in space.

By massive I mean the largest man-made construction ever in space. The station when finished would see 6 square kilometers of solar panels orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 36,000km. It’s so large in fact, that from the Earth’s surface it would apparently look like a star in the sky.



Chinese solar boom

China’s New Solar Target Could Set the Stage for a Solar Boom

Chinese solar boomThe solar industry is growing around the world, but China is taking growth to another level. It recently set the most aggressive goal of any country by targeting 17.8 GW of solar installations in 2015. That’s 19% higher than the proposed 15 GW goal, and 70% higher than the 10.5 GW installed in 2014.

Considering that around 46 GW of solar energy capacity was installed in 2014, China is leading the market in both market share and absolute growth. What’s incredible is how good this could be for investors in solar companies.

Just how big is China’s goal?
To put China’s goal into some perspective, here is how 17.8 GW stacks up in the solar industry.

  • 17.8 GW of solar energy would power 2.9 million U.S. households, or about 2.5% of the homes in the U.S.
  • If built as a utility-scale power plant, 17.8 GW of solar energy would cover about 107,000 acres, or 167 square miles.
  • Next year alone, China could approach the grand total of 18.3 GW of solar ever installed in the U.S.

European power grids keep lights on though solar eclipse

solar-eclipseElectrical grids in Europe claimed success on Friday in managing the unprecedented disruption to solar power from a 2-1/2-hour eclipse that brought sudden, massive drops in supply.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, at the heart of the event, boasts the world’s biggest solar-powered installations, which last year supplied 6 percent of national power requirements.

The initial 13 gigawatts (GW) drop in Germany was less than operators had feared and they were able to draw on alternative power sources including coal, gas, biogas and hydroelectric energy pumped from storage.

Grid spokespeople said control rooms were tense. “The mood is concentrated but confident that it will go smoothly,” said Andreas Preuss, spokesman of TenneT peer Amprion, which operates the longest network inside Germany.


dubai solar

Dubai sets pace on rooftop solar power

dubai solarThe door has opened to cash-saving and environmentally friendly solar panels on the roofs of residential buildings in Dubai.

Residents and landlords who install the panels will not only cut greenhouse gas emissions and save money on their fuel bills, but they will also be able to feed any excess power back into the emirate’s electricity grid.

Eleven applications by companies and individuals for solar rooftops with a total capacity of 8.5 megawatts have already been filed through the Shams Dubai Smart Initiative.

Should all projects be successfully installed, the reductions in harmful greenhouse gases every year would be equivalent to the removal of more than 1,000 cars from the road.

Last week, a 30-kilowatt solar array at the Dubai World Central – Al Maktoum International Airport became the first installation to be connected to the grid under the scheme.

Among the 11 projects to be connected is a solar system with a capacity of around 2MW at Dubai International Humanitarian City. The projects will rely on solar photovoltaic technology, capturing sunlight and turning it into power.


india solar loans

Home loans and solar power

india solar loans

As part of its continuing efforts to boost solar power generation in the country, the Department of Financial Services, Union Ministry of Finance, has issued instructions to public sector banks to encourage clients seeking either home loans or home improvement loans to install rooftop solar photo voltaic plants and to include the cost of the system in their loan proposals.

This was stated in a Press Information Bureau (PIB) report, which also said that the Union Ministry for New and Renewable Energy was in the process of implementing a ‘grid-connected rooftop and small solar power plants programme’ to encourage installation of rooftop systems for solar power generation.

17 States

The PIB report said that 17 States in the country had already notified regulatory framework on net metering or feed-in tariff to encourage rooftop solar-power generation systems.



australian solar

Sharing solar power with your neighbours

australian solarSmart metering has come a long way. Most Victorian customers are now billed via a smart meter. There’s been some hiccups along the way but generally speaking, for the bulk of customers their data is available daily and through the Jemena and United portals where an up-to-the-hour query will give customers the latest data, direct from their meter. For the rest of the country, smart meters are on their way and – with the added incentive of them actually doing something smart, such as controlling household appliances – the demand for their widespread deployment will grow.

So what could be smarter about smart meters other than virtual net-metering with real-time visibility?

A virtual net-metering revolution has quietly occurred in a number of places around the world, including California in the US. California’s version of virtual net-metering allows Californians living in a multi-dwelling building, such as an apartment complex, to have a shared solar system with a percentage of output from each interval (30 minutes is the standard for Australian smart meters) being allocated to each of the owners of the solar system. So if there were 10 residents in an apartment complex who owned a shared solar system on the roof generating 10kWh at midday, each customer would get 1kWh of power over one hour (two intervals), which would offset any of their usage during that period. If they didn’t use any power then their 1kWh would be exported and they’d be paid the same as any other solar PV owner.


SunEdison To Bring Electricity To 20 Million People By 2020

SunEdisonSunEdison, Inc., the world’s largest renewable energy development company, today announced an ambitious plan to electrify 20 million people in underserved communities around the world. The initiative will be led by SunEdison Social Innovations, a global group focused on developing new business models and new technologies which make renewable energy in rural communities economically sustainable over the long term, while also contributing to social and environmental benefits to the community.

“Billions of people worldwide don’t have access to electricity,” said Ahmad Chatila, President and Chief Executive Officer at SunEdison. “Without electricity they can’t access many of the things we take for granted – health clinics with vaccines, or schools with computers and fans. But by applying a mix of new business models, new technology, and charitable donations, we are tackling the issue head on. We are committing to bringing electricity to one million people by the end of 2015, and are targeting to help 20 million people gain access to electricity by 2020.”

The Social Innovations team has already started working toward its goal and has helped more than 250,000 people worldwide through strategic partnerships focused on three key areas: new business models, new technology, and charitable donations.

New business models

SunEdison is developing new ways to bring electricity to the people who need it most through a series of partnerships and innovative business models.

In India, SunEdison and Omnigrid Micropower Company (OMC) are electrifying rural villages by pairing commercial solar customers with local villagers. Telecom companies need their cellular towers powered. Villagers need electricity. A solar electric mini grid providing electricity for both of them is the answer. The mini grid is first built to power the tower – the tower becomes the anchor for the project. With this in place, SunEdison and OMC develop additional mini grid capacity that can be sold to the local villagers. By pairing high credit telecom companies with low to no credit villagers the entire project becomes bankable. It is a mutually beneficial relationship – the telecom companies save money by powering their telecom towers with cost effective solar energy, while the hundreds of families that live around each tower get access to electricity that can be used for lights, fans and mobile phone chargers. With a target of 5,000 solar power plants to be developed over the next 5 years, the SunEdison-OMC partnership expects to help more than 10 million people.

In Nepal, SunEdison is partnering with SunFarmer to amplify the benefits of electricity by providing solar systems to remote hospitals, health clinics, and schools. Their latest innovation is a five to seven year rent-to-own loan. The loan was designed to fit the needs of less affluent organizations by spreading the cost of the solar system over a longer term than is typically available. Financed in this way, solar delivers lower cost energy than diesel generators and brings with it the certainty that the energy prices are not going to fluctuate.

To date, SunFarmer and SunEdison have positively impacted 250,000 people to date through this program and are set to expand to geographic regions beyond Nepal, with the goal of bringing electricity to 7 million people by 2020.

New Technology

The new Outdoor Microstation is now available for deployment. The Outdoor Microstation is a stand-alone power generation unit that provides renewable and reliable electricity for a variety of off-grid applications in hard-to-service remote areas.

It can be used to quickly and cost effectively power households and small businesses, illuminate public places, supply energy to clinics and health centers, power water pumps or irrigation systems, or provide electricity to telecommunications systems. These systems can be deployed quickly – in less than a day, a village that was dark the night before can experience electricity by sundown As an added benefit, the Outdoor Microstation protects against rising and fluctuating diesel fuel costs.

The Outdoor Microstation comes in two versions: a 3,500 volt-amperes version and a 650 volt-amperes version. The Outdoor Microstation 3500 unit can provide power for a rural community of up to 25 households, including street lighting, for 5 hours each night. The 650 volt-amperes unit can provide electricity for up to 10 households for five hours each night. Both models are equipped with high capacity batteries that can provide three days of autonomy under any weather condition. The system is low maintenance and is designed to ensure steady operation under almost any conditions, thanks to its quality components and its rugged weatherproof design.

To view the new SunEdison Outdoor Microstation video please visit:

Charitable Donations

SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation are engaged in a variety of charitable initiatives dedicated to empowering people and improving lives. To maximize the benefits of electrification in the local community, the SunEdison Foundation focuses on providing clean energy solutions for health clinics and schools.

“We have donated and installed 344 kilowatts of solar systems for 28 schools and clinics to date, which has positively impacted more than 16,000 people,” said Alakesh Chetia, President of Social Innovations at SunEdison. “Our latest donation is a 5.2 kilowatt system installed at a school on the off-grid island of Gilutongan, in the Philippines. This system is the largest system ever donated to an island in the Philippines. The school had no access to electricity during the day to power the 11 computers owned by the school. By donating a solar system to the school, we have given these children a means to learn with computers. This will improve computer literacy for the area, which will have a powerful economic impact further down the road as the children enter the job market.”

Recently, the SunEdison Foundation made a charitable donation to the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to help salt farmers in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat purchase solar water pumps. The pilot phase of the program has been very successful; the donation has enabled the purchase of 200 solar water pumps. SunEdison hopes to move all 17,000 SEWA members from diesel to solar water pumps over the next 5 years by bringing in additional funding from finance partners.

Mr. Chetia concluded: “Bringing electricity to 20 million people by 2020 will require not only new business models, new technologies, and charitable work, but also partnerships. We all benefit when we work together. At SunEdison we’re committed and engaged, and we want to magnify our efforts by connecting with others who are equally engaged.”


Defra’s solar clampdown based on ‘politics not evidence’


The Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) was informed by the CAP Direct Payments Team that solar farms do not have a “serious” impact on the UK’s agricultural output ahead of its controversial decision to remove CAP payments for solar farms.

A freedom of information (FOI) request filed by Solar Power Portal reveals that the CAP Direct Payments Team told Defra in September 2014 that: “Given the small areas of land covered [by solar farms] currently, it is not possible to argue that, at the national level, there is yet a serious impact on agricultural output.”

However just one month later, environment secretary Elizabeth Truss proclaimed that her department was removing CAP payments for solar farms because she did not want to see English farmland’s “productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms”.


Israeli solar power plant to generate electricity around the clock

israeli-solarIsraeli alternative energy company Brenmiller Energy has solved one of the biggest issues with solar technology — how to generate electricity when the sun sets. The Tel Aviv-based company announced on Monday that it will build a 10-megawatt solar facility in the Negev desert city of Dimona that will generate renewable electricity for around 20 hours per day through an energy storage technology the company has been developing for the past three years. Biomass will be used as a backup during the four hours when the solar power system is not generating electricity.

Solar power stations integrating storage and backed up by biomass are the best solution for producing electricity in Israel,” said Brenmiller Energy CEO Avi Brenmiller. “Biomass alone cannot meet electricity demand but combining it with solar energy and storage represents the cheapest and cleanest alternative. This combination is a solution for the high costs of burying garbage borne by the local authorities.”

tracking solar array

Solution: Solar energy to power rural areas

tracking solar arrayAs Pakistan continues to suffer from its crippling energy shortage, Telenor Pakistan, Tameer Microfinance Bank and Roshan Energy have partnered to rollout their solar-powered home solution for the low-income segment, which is off the national grid, it was revealed on Tuesday.

“This initiative will empower nearly 40% of Pakistanis who live off the grid with access to clean and affordable solar energy,” Telenor Pakistan’s Chief Financial Services Officer Yahya Khan said during a media roundtable at the company’s Karachi office.

According to Khan, a large number of the country’s rural population lacks access to electricity and depends on expensive, inefficient fuel-based sources. “The Solar Home Solution will provide a sustainable, affordable and long-lasting electricity solution,” he added.

Tanzania solar

Solar ‘generators’ power up remote homes, factories

Tanzania solarAs darkness falls, Dora Mjungu and her two brothers cram themselves around the faint flame of a kerosene lamp, struggling to finish their homework before their mother blows out the lamp to save the fuel cost.

“I don’t dare to go to bed before getting it done. If I did, I would rather stay at home because my teacher would be mad at me and hit me hard as if she was killing a snake,” said Mjungu, as the lamp, made from a used cooking oil tin, cast scary shadows on the sitting room walls.

For years, 14-year-old Mjungu, a pupil at Usinge primary school in remote Tura village in Tanzania’s Tabora region, has been trying to convince her mother to buy a Chinese-made solar lamp, which would not emit smoke that makes her cough.

Her mother says pupils have long survived studying by firelight or even moonlight, and “circumstances are such that I cannot afford any other kind of lamp.”


World Economic Forum

At Davos Summit, a Path Forward for a Solar (and Wind) Powered World

World Economic ForumLocation, location, location, the aphorism goes. Especially when it comes to solar power.

Take the World Economic Forum’s recent report The Future of Electricity(PDF) as a fitting example. Charting the European Union’s transforming grid and return on investment in renewable energy over the last decade, WEF’s interactive widget posits that the EU would have saved $140 billion had it more accurately coordinated and maximized solar and wind buildout. Specifically, solar needed more of a foothold in sunnier Spain, which boasts 65 percent more solar irradiation than EU leader Germany, while wind needed greater penetration in windier northern nations like France and Britain.

Despite these stumbles, investment in power generation grew 11 percent annually between 2001 and 2012, 54 percent of which was in non-hydro renewables like solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, although close to $8 trillion more is needed to meet policy objectives between now and 2040. To do this, the WEF recommends that OECD countries “exploit the most efficient and renewable resources across borders,” provide stable market signals “on carbon pricing to incentivize decarbonization” and “remove unnecessary regulatory barriers between incumbent utilities and new entrants.”

With residential electricity prices predicted to increase in both America and the EU over the next two decades, now is the time for investors and homeowners alike to rethink and rebuild the 20th century’s obsolete models with more resilient, flexible systems that reflect the growing demand for clean energy. A clear price on carbon would go a long way to stabilizing this transition, the WEF argued, as will adapting to the increasing participation of customers, who are no longer “merely consumers at the receiving end of long lines of transmission and distribution wires.”

The WEF specifically noted that solar has “spurred a whole set of new businesses in which companies work with individual consumers to create an end-to-end proposition: providing low cost solar energy and coordinating all the investment flows on behalf of the customer.”

While the WEF’s relatively short 25-page report is overstuffed with economic and political jargon, its primary thesis is clear: The electricity sector is being overhauled before our eyes, with customers having an even greater stake than before in how it is capitalized, utilized and disrupted. Harmonizing investment and innovation is going to make this process much easier, as is building out renewable energy everywhere but especially where it can be optimized. With trillions left to invest in time for a climate change deadline, the time is past to get that process well underway.