70% of people living in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to a conventional electrical grid. Even if they did, the service is often interrupted by a variety of factors. Now, Community Energy Social Enterprises Limited, a Nigerian company, and Renewvia Energy Corporation, an American firm, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide solar power to 25 communities across Nigeria using local microgrids. The communities are located in the Nigerian states of Bayelsa, Ondo, Ogun, and Osun. The microgrids are expected to be operational by the end of this year and have a total capacity of 10 megawatts.
Clay Taber, managing director of Renewvia, says the microgrids will include PV panels, string inverters, aluminium racking, and energy storage backup power. He adds that Renewvia and CESEL will sell electricity to microgrid customers through Kilowatts, a “pay as you go” microfinance company. “The competitiveness of the system helps to ensure payment, as the project would provide consistent and reliable power at a less expensive price than current rural power generation by diesel,” he says. Most customers send about $6 a month for electricity from a solar microgrid.
The project is supported by Power Africa, a US energy project initiated in 2013 to assist African countries in accessing energy. CESEL is a private Nigerian company that has led the community engagement for 6 operational microgrid projects in Nigeria that have received funding through the Nigeria Bank of Industry and United Nations Development Program.
Renewvia is a private US renewable energy developer and solar power plant operator established in 2009. Renewvia specializes in providing minigrid and solar energy solutions for residential, commercial, and utility-scale applications.
Solar energy in Africa is not used to power air conditioning, electric cars, or hot tubs. It is used to provide LED lighting at night so people continue to do business after the sun sets, so the streets are lit to deter crime, and so school children can do their schoolwork at night without breathing toxic fumes from kerosene lanterns. One solar light can transform the life of a family that has never known the wonders of electrical energy. Solar power can also be used to charge cell phones, which helps people connect with each other and helps the development of cohesive communities.