24th March marked the inauguration with our partners, India’s Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO) and The Energy Resource Institute (TERI) to test entrepreneur-owned solar mini-grids for small businesses. This expands the solar electrification programme we started in 2012 then focused on homes and school hostels. The project is now testing how mini-grids, two of 2KW and one 8KW, can replace diesel generator sets and kerosene, as well as increase efficiencies of solar power when adapted to market places.
The solar mini-grids will reduce green-house gases by replacing the existing highly polluting and expensive diesel generators that currently power the markets. We are working with the same diesel generator operators who change technology but not their trade of selling power. The generator operators replace their machines to become solar mini-grid operators, selling power to small businesses in market places. The project is also expanding our work with home mini-grids, connecting groups of 6 to 10 homes through one 225 W mini-grid.
Grouping customers and users in this way increases affordability, avoids duplication of multiple solar panels as well as environmental inefficiencies that can result from unplanned and uncoordinated expansion of privately-owned solar systems. The mini-grids will avoid multiple installations of individual solar grids through the sale of excess power to local businesses and neighbouring homes, thus allowing power to meet “aspirational’ needs, beyond immediate and most basic electrification needs in a planned manner.
The end result of replacing generators and kerosene lamps over a year can save up 10 tons of green–house-gas a year, about ten times the average annual green-house emissions produced per capita in India. By the time we reach our target of 150 markets in 2018 we will have saved 1,640 tons of GHGs, the equivalent of the average annual GHG emissions on 14,000 people in India. As with all our programmes we also plan to build on this engagement with the community to change other harmful behaviours beyond replacing diesel and kerosene. We are working with the community to form groups to replace other harmful products that impact negatively on the environment.
We are not working alone to achieve this. This particular event celebrated our partnership with POSOCO as well as world renowned TERI, who worked with us on the design of the solar multi-utility micro-grid, and NABARD (the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) who has been supportive in developing new financing mechanism for the community.
All our work is open source so we can reach as many people as possible and spread any successes a widely as possible. If you are interested in taking part or learning more about how we are electrifying the Sundarbans, please do get in touch.