Navajo solar

Solar Power Makes Electricity More Accessible On Navajo Reservation

navajo-solar Most people can’t imagine living without smartphones or the Internet, let alone without electricity. But even today — even in the United States — there are still people who live without lights and refrigeration. Many are Native Americans living on tribal reservations.

For many, electricity is a luxury; it can even be magical. Derrick Terry remembers the first winter when there were lights on at his grandmother’s house.

“You see the Christmas lights in the distance, it’s like seeing that unicorn,” he says. “It’s an indescribable feeling, I guess, when you first get electricity.”

Terry grew up on the Navajo Nation. It’s about the size of West Virginia and covers the Arizona, New Mexico and Utah portions of the Four Corners region. When Terry was a boy, his family used a 12-volt car battery to supply their house with power. He says the battery would get low simply by running the TV or house lights.

Fenix

Investors back startup that sells offgrid battery & solar panels

FenixBatteries paired with solar panels aren’t just intriguing customers in the U.S., Europe and Japan looking to ditch their utilities. People are slowly adopting batteries and solar panels in offgrid markets, too, using their cell phones to make reoccurring micropayments and using solar energy to replace kerosene lanterns.

This week startup Fenix International — which is based in San Francisco and Kampala, Uganda, and was founded in 2009 — announced that it has raised a Series B round of $12.6 million to get its battery and solar panel product into the hands of more customers. Fenix emerged from stealth in late 2010 with a plan to sell its lead acid battery product, which comes with a solar panel and other energy adapters, to customers in rural Africa.

 

$16 Million For “Off Grid Electric” From SolarCity

off grid electric“Off Grid Electric” explains that it delivers 50 times more light for less money than the norm in the markets it serves. The people it supplies are often using kerosene lamps to light their homes.

Furthermore, it is more than light that these people need. Pre-pay solar energy from Off Grid Electric gives them electricity to charge their phones and run other electronics, such as computers — something a kerosene lamp certainly cannot do.

Off Grid Electric has raised $16 million thanks to investors such as the similarly pioneering SolarCity. Off Grid Electric founder Xavier Helgesen has hope that the company will eventually “light a billion people’s lives.” The $16 million is to help grow Off Grid Solar’s pre-pay solar in Africa (starting at $6) from its existing customer base of 25,000 to 100,000. Considering these people average $700 (income) a year, this is a much better option than traveling long distances to be charged too much money to charge their phones while also paying for expensive and harmful fuel for kerosene lamps.

Off-Grid Solar is Going to be HUGE

Everywhere you look, the off-grid clean energy market is booming.

Sub-Saharan Africa is seeing 300 percent compound annual growth in off-grid lighting; Bangladesh is putting up 30,000 to 40,000 solar home systems every month; and d.light, a for-profit seller of solar lights, recently reached its 1 millionth customer.

off-grid-solar

If these numbers haven’t raised the attention of institutional investors, perhaps this will: half the planet’s population may be best served with pay-as-you-go solar technology, not grid services.

That’s cleantech’s next big frontier, according to energy expert Ted Hesser. I caught up with him after a recent presentation at Stanford University (video below) to get a better understanding of why he’s bullish on pay-as-you-go solar’s ability to end energy poverty — and to make investors a whole lot of money.

Ted’s thesis is simple: poverty and profit tend not to mix — except when it comes to solar power for the poor.

The best way to understand this is to consider the case of a villager in Tanzania. Let’s say she lives in a community where there is no grid, but she has a mobile phone or other device and really wants to keep it charged. So she opts for a small home solar system to cover basic needs like mobile charging.

Due to a combination of newfound purchasing power, declining solar system costs, increasing kerosene costs, and advances in solar services business models, she can pay that system off in one to three years. Compare that to a person living in the Northeast U.S., where a homeowner could require a fifteen- to twenty-year payback, and you can see just how compelling the economics are for this market.

But here’s Ted’s most important point: solar is actually cheaper than the alternative (kerosene plus phone-charging) when financed.

That’s because close to 1 billion people have risen above the poverty line over the past twenty years, with an estimated 3 billion people now earning between $2 and $10 a day. That money is currently spent on costly and polluting energy sources like kerosene (or even worse, candles). Selling cheap basic services like solar electricity into this market through micropayment schemes is what makes pay-as-you-go solar not only economically viable, but perhaps the largest opportunity in energy services worldwide. After all, small is big.

Continue Reading at Greentech Media

In Focus: Off Grid Solar Power Billboard Lighting

solar-billboard-lighting

The biggest challenge associated with lighting the scores of billboards located along remote stretches of highways and byways throughout the US is the accessibility of AC power.   When AC power is not readily available or too costly to access, SEPCO’s ultra reliable grid-free solar power systems—combined with energy efficient, high performance LED flood light fixtures from our lighting partners at Hubbell Lighting—are an ideal solution.

Better yet, SEPCO/Hubbell off-grid solar power billboard lighting systems are relatively quick and easy to install.  The solar arrays are mounted to heavy duty round steel galvanized poles attached to the top of the billboard structure.  The DC power generated by the solar arrays is stored in a master battery box during the day and then, with the help of SEPCO’s ALC system controller, used to power the high performance Hubbell LED flood light fixtures at night.

Invariably, the best, most cost effective off-grid solar power billboard lighting systems will be in areas that have ample sun during the day, low levels of ambient lighting surrounding the billboard at night and can operate on 6-8 hours per night, the likes of which can be easily be split into a post dusk and a pre-dawn run time (ex.  Dusk + 6 hours…off…back on 2 hours pre-dawn)

Also worth noting that 30% Federal tax credit is available to companies in the US that utilize off-grid solar power to illuminate their billboards at night.

Have a billboard or a sign you would like to light at night but have limited or very costly access to AC power? Give SEPCO a call, we can help!

Original Article on SEPCO

13 Off Grid Solar Projects Light Up Sierra Leone

sierra-leone-flag

Electricity shortage is a common problem in the nation of Sierra Leone’s experience. Now a public-private partnership funded by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization is planning to bring solar power to some of the areas that need it most.

In the western African country, just less than 10 percent of its population has access to electricity and those that do subsequently suffer from high prices due to inefficient and costly generators.

The Unido is planning to address this problem in several locations by funding 13 turn-key solar photovoltaic power plants. Laos-based social enterprise Sunlabob Renewable Energy has been awarded two contracts for the design, supply, installation and local training of these projects.

Sunlabob specializes in renewable energy and clean water projects in developing countries. To complete the solar P.V. plants – twelve 5-kilowatt peak plants and one 16 kWp plant – they will work with local partners.

They will also provide hands-on usage and maintenance training with community members to establish awareness and understanding to allow prolonged operations of solar P.V. plants.

“Providing off-grid areas with renewable energy not only enables dependable and affordable electricity, but also opens the door to positive, long-term social and economic development,” said Andy Schroeter, Sunlabob’s founder and chief executive officer.

The off-grid solar P.V. projects are expected to help promote Sierra Leone’s economic growth, delivering a reliable power supply in education and training facilities.

Universities and centers will be able to use computers, internet and other communication tools to improve education opportunities and learn skills necessary in local enterprise development, said Sunlabob.

Sunlabob previously designed, installed and provided community training for 53 kWp solar P.V. plants across three industrial growth centers in Sierra Leone in 2012. These plants are paving the way for agricultural entrepreneurship training and development for rural youth and young adults in underprivileged communities, according to the company.

Within Africa, Sunlabob already built solar power facilities in rural areas of Liberia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Guinea Bissau, and is currently working to light up over 60 schools throughout Uganda in partnership with the World Bank. – EcoSeed Staff

Original Article on EcoSeed

Solar Power Off the Grid

After the Durban talks last month, climate realists must face the reality that “shared sacrifice,” however necessary eventually, has proven a catastrophically bad starting point for global collaboration. Nations have already spent decades debating who was going to give up how much first in exchange for what. So we need to seek opportunities — arenas where there are advantages, not penalties, for those who first take action — both to achieve first-round emission reductions and to build trust and cooperation.

One of the major opportunities lies in providing energy access for the more than 1.2 billion people who don’t have electricity, most of whom, in business-as-usual scenarios, still won’t have it in 2030. These are the poorest people on the planet. Ironically, the world’s poorest can best afford the most sophisticated lighting — off-grid combinations of solar panels, power electronics, and LED lights. And this creates an opportunity for which the economics are compelling, the moral urgency profound, the development benefits enormous, and the potential leverage game changing.

As the accompanying graphs show, the cost of coal and copper — the ingredients of conventional grid power — are soaring. Meanwhile, the cost of solar panels and LEDs, the ingredients of distributed renewable power, are racing down even faster.

If we want the poor to benefit from electricity we cannot wait for the grid, and we cannot rely on fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency, historically a grid-centric, establishment voice, admits that half of those without electricity today will never be wired. The government of India estimates that two-thirds of its non-electrified households need distributed power.

Fortunately, the historic barriers to getting distributed renewable power to scale in poor villages and neighborhoods are rapidly being dismantled by progress in technology, finance, and business models. Getting 1.2 billion people local solar power they can afford is within grasp — if we only think about the problem in a different way. In fact, the world can finish this job by 2020.

The poor already pay for light. They pay for kerosene and candles. And they pay a lot. The poorest fifth of the world pays one-fifth of the world’s lighting bill — but receives only .1 percent of the lighting benefits. Over a decade, the average poor family spends $1,800 on energy expenditures. Replacing kerosene with a vastly superior 40 Wp (Watts peak) home solar system would cost only $300 and provide them not only light, but access to cell-phone charging, fans, computers, and even televisions.

Kerosene costs 25 to 30 percent of a family’s income — globally that amounts to $36 billion a year. The poor do not use kerosene because it is cheap — they are kept poor in significant part because they must rely on expensive, dirty kerosene.

And the poor pay in other ways. A room lit by kerosene typically can have concentrations of pollution 10 times safe levels. About 1.5 million people, mostly women, die of this pollution every year, in addition to those who die from burns in fires.

So why do the poor use kerosene? Because they can buy a single day’s worth in a bottle, if that is all they can afford. For the poor, affordability has three dimensions: total cost, up-front price, and payment flexibility. Solar power comes in a panel that will give ten, or even 20, years of light and power — but the poor cannot afford a ten-year investment up front. And many cannot handle conventional finance plans, which require fixed payments regardless of their income that month.

Nor, for the record, do the electrified middle class pay for electricity up front. When I moved into my house in San Francisco, I did not get a bill for my share of the power plants and transmission grid that give me power each month. I pay as I go, based on how many kwh’s I use that month.

So lighting the lives of 1.2 billion people with off-grid renewable electricity requires three ingredients:

  • Capital to pay for solar or other renewable electrical generation for 400 million households that depend on kerosene;
  • Business models for those households to pay for the electricity they use, at the price it really costs, which is a lot less than kerosene;
  • Financing, public policy, and partnerships to create the supply chains and distribution networks capable of getting distributed electrical systems to every household that needs them. (These needs might require $6 billion in credits and loan guarantees.)

The money is on the table. It’s just on the wrong plates. Purchase and finance of solar power for 1.2 billion people would cost about $10 billion a year over a decade. The 11 countries with the largest number of households without electricity spent $80 billion each year subsidizing fossil fuel — only 17 percent of which benefits the poor. In 2010, the World Bank spent $8 billion on coal-fired power plants, few of which provided meaningful energy access to the poor. The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism is proposing to give $4 billion a year to anything-but-clean coal-plants. So there is already far more capital in the system than is needed.

Even five years ago the business models did not exist to enable the poor to afford solar. Solar was much more expensive. The only alternative to buying a solar system with cash was a bank or micro-credit loan for which most of the poor could not qualify.

But the combination of dirt-cheap solar, the cell-phone revolution, and mobile phone banking has changed everything. There are almost 600 million cell-phone customers without electricity — using their phones very

Cell phone companies have a powerful motivation to get renewable power into rural areas.

little, still spending $10 billion to charge them in town. There are hundreds of thousands of rural, off-grid cell towers powered by diesel — at a price of about $0.70/kilowatt hour. All over the world cell-phone towers are being converted from diesel to hybrid renewable power sources. So cell phone companies have a powerful motivation to get renewable power into rural areas, to get electricity to their customers, and to charge for electricity through their mobile phone payment systems.

At least three commercial models have been launched in the last several months. India’s Simpa Networks — in partnership with SELCO in India and DT-Power in Ghana, India and Kenya — are testing models in which solar distributors can allow customers to pay for electricity through mobile banking “pay as you go” plans. Zimbabwe’s Econet Power has launched an even more intriguing model, in which it provides its cell-phone customers with solar power as a customer benefit, charging them only $1 week to use a home solar system provided by Econet, with the bills tied to the customer’s cell phone account.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proclaimed 2012 the Year of Universal Energy Access. His initiative is keyed not to the UN climate talks, but to the Rio +20 Earth Summit talks scheduled for June.

Imagine that at Rio, instead of embracing business-as-usual solutions to energy access, the world decided to empower the poor with the electricity they can truly afford — distributed solar?

What would the benefits be? In carbon terms alone, kerosene for lighting emits almost as much greenhouse-gas pollution as the entire British economy. 1.5 million lives a year would be saved from respiratory ailments. The available income for the world’s poorest fifth would be increased by 25 to 30 percent — a pretty big development bang-for-the-buck. Numerous studies have shown that providing basic energy access increases household income by 50 percent or more by providing more time and opportunities for home-based income generation.
But the leverage is actually much greater. If one-fifth of the world is on solar, as these people prosper and can afford more electricity, they are going to expand solar systems, rather than turning to coal or nuclear. Their neighbors include the one-third of humanity with “spasmodic” electricity — wires that in rural areas work only at night, and in urban areas go down in the afternoon. These customers would find distributed solar far more reliable than the current grid. If we add those 2 billion to the 1.2 billion who are not on the grid, virtually half of humanity could be turning to renewable power as the cheapest, most reliable and most available form of energy. The fossil fuel interests would lose completely their current moral argument — that more carbon will power the poor.

That, I would argue is a phenomenal game-changer — and a powerful first step in building a trusting, low-carbon coalition of rich and poor nations. And that coalition could lay the groundwork for the more challenging global efforts that will be needed to stabilize and eventually restore the climate.

Original Article on Yale Environment 360

Go Off the Grid

With the plethora of renewable energy technologies hitting the market andtheir steady decrease in price, more corporations and businesses arebeginning to consider on-site renewable energy generation. Companies ofall sizes, with varied electricity needs, can tailor one or acombination of several renewable energy installations to fit the needsof the enterprise. There are multiple technologies to consider duringthe evaluation process and an in-depth cost/benefit analysis should beperformed. Post-installation requires ongoing monitoring andmaintenance, and thoughtful publicity to capitalize on the environmental and social benefits of the project.

HelioPower President, Ty Jagerson, will participate in the Agrion “Go Off the Grid: On-Site Renewable Energy Generation” conference exploring on-site renewable energy generation and considerations for its success.

The conference will be held on Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto, CA.  Bloom Energy’s,  Asim Hussain, Director of Product Marketing and Michael Bangs, PE, Directorof Global Facilities of Adobe are also on the agenda which will bemoderated by Jon Guice, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Researchof AltaTerra Research Network.

For more information and registration, see the Agrion registration site.

 

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