Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Changing lives with solar microgrids




Haiti is the poorest the country in the western hemisphere. Only 25 per cent of the 10.3 million people in the country have access to electricity. One nonprofit organization is testing a solution that could not only change the lives of the unelectrified in Haiti, but could be a model of how to bring electricity to the 1.2 billion people in the world still living in the dark.
EarthSpark International has built a 93 kW solar-powered microgrid in the small town of Les Anglais (pop. 3,000 in the “downtown” area), which currently supplies clean reliable power to approximately 2,000 people.

Why a Microgrid?

Haiti has more than 30 existing municipal microgrids, but most of them don’t work. And even when they do function, they run on diesel and operate just a few hours a day, a few days a week. So EarthSpark’s goal was to provide people with 24-hour clean affordable electricity.
EarthSpark began working in Haiti providing people with small solar home systems and solar lanterns, products that are life-changing tools for people without access to grid electricity. But the organization soon realized that those aren’t the solutions to which everyone aspires. “To truly unlock economic opportunity, people need access to higher levels of electricity than what a solar home system can provide,” Allison Archambault, president of EarthSpark International, told RMI.
“With the right conditions minigrids can provide energy services in a low-cost sweet spot between small levels of energy consumption that can be effectively served by small stand-alone solar systems and traditional grid extension,” according to Eric Wanless, a principal in RMI’s international practice leading the Sustainable Energy for Economic Development initiative. EarthSpark isn’t the only group focusing on microgrids.

Monday, February 8, 2016



Wind power and solar power are ways to reduce carbon emissions, but these generation sources are dependent on the vagaries of the weather, which means neither wind nor solar can produce electricity on-demand at all hours of the day. This variability has led many to assume that greatly expanding wind and solar to reduce carbon emissions will cause electricity costs to skyrocket and require expensive energy storage.
My colleagues and I have just published a new study to show that this assumption is not correct. In fact, if the U.S. were to move to a national 48-state electric system, rather than the regional one in place now, the country would be able to transport more renewable energy around the country. That change could reduce CO2 by 78 percent at lower costs than today without using any storage technologies.

Using a computer model, we found that this larger electric system would utilize power more efficiently regardless of the generators within it. The cost reduction between the national style system we modeled and the current one, which is divided into about 130 regions, is US$47 billion per year. That translates into an electricity cost of between 8.5 and 10.2¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh), compared to the current national average of 12.7 cents per kWh.