This is a guest post from Dr Murray Simpson, CEO, INTASAVE Energy
Access to power is still a major challenge for remote rural off-grid communities in Africa and elsewhere. In Kenya, for example, more than 30 million people are without electricity, approximately 75% of the population.
The provision of a reliable, sustainable, clean energy source has wide-ranging benefits, helping to improve health, increase children’s educational attainment, empower women, boost the economy and therefore improve quality of life for entire communities.
One of the simplest and cost-most effective ways of providing this is through solar power, especially in countries with the right prevailing conditions. Kenya, for example, is well suited to solar, with an average of 5 kWh/m²/day (1,850 kWh/m²/year) available throughout the country.
In the past, the standard solution for off-grid solar power has been through standalone solar home systems (SHS) that supply a fixed amount of energy to single households. Although these systems have achieved some success, they have significant limitations including their high cost, limited functionality and lack of community benefits.
A better model is required for delivering sustainable clean energy that is affordable, easy to maintain and scalable. To address this need INTASAVE Energy has created a unique model through its Solar Nano-Grid (SONG) renewable energy systems.
SONGs differ from other solar installations as they combine a visionary model for sustainable affordable energy with a cutting-edge new form of energy storage using up-cycled batteries, never used in development projects before. This unique combination not only provides a “quick fix” for immediate electricity needs (both domestic and communal), but also a long-term scalable solution that allows communities to grow their electricity usage at their own pace.
Each SONG consists of a small grid network and central solar hub that produces a DC power output of 3-5 kWp. The hub contains traditional lead-acid cells that store the power collected from the solar panels. Household energy is then supplied via portable battery packs charged at the central hub, collected for use in homes and returned for re-charging as required. A SONG can supply an entire community of around 50 households from one central hub.
Ground-breaking IonQube technology allows industry standard 18650 lithium-ion batteries, as used in laptops and power drills, to be ‘upcycled’ into a rechargeable and long-lasting power source for low carbon energy storage. By monitoring and analysing how power is being used with microcontrollers in the battery packs in initial installations, INTASAVE is able to expand and increase supply to meet individual and community requirements for existing and future roll-outs.
One of the key benefits of the SONG model is that excess power generated at the central location is available to meet the community’s commercial, social or agro-industrial needs, which is not possible with an SHS. It can power water pumps, flour mills and egg incubators, and even support commercial micro-enterprises such as hair clipping and mobile phone charging businesses. INTASAVE Energy is working with the SONG communities to help grow new businesses, creating much-needed jobs and income for long-term development.
The first INTASAVE Energy SONG deployments are currently taking place in Kenya. INTASAVE Energy has also launched a major $30 million equity funding campaign to enable the wider implementation of the SONG programme. Details can be found here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Dr Murray Simpson:
Dr Murray Simpson is senior visiting fellow, University of Oxford, Department of Engineering Science and CEO of the INTASAVE-CARIBSAVE Group, a global not-for-profit and environmental enterprise organisation with offices in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, China and the UK, specialising in sustainable development and climate change adaptation and mitigation in developed and developing countries, and in emerging economies.