Powerhive set to expand off-grid metering solutions

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California-based off-grid metering and control solutions company Powerhive is gearing up for commercialization and scale-up after more than two years of field testing in Kenya.

The startup, founded in 2011, partners with utilities and independent power producers to provide access to micro-grid electricity for rural homes and businesses around the globe.

With financial and technical backing from First Solar, Powerhive pioneered the delivery of locally generated energy in Kenya’s Kisii province, where more than 90% of the population has no access to electricity.

The company plans to expand its coverage to more than 200,000 households in Kenya and has leveraged pilot projects to test and refine its range of innovative solutions designed to enable micro-grid deployments in rural regions.

As part of the pilot program, Powerhive deployed First Solar module technology with its metering and control platform. Customers are currently able to pre-purchase electricity for commercial and residential use through mobile banking services.

“Powerhive’s technology and data-driven approach to micro-grid development and operations will enable the formation of a new asset class,” said Powerhive CEO Christopher Hornor. “It will enable us to cost-effectively reach tens of millions of people in rural villages unserved by grids while offering strong risk-weighted returns to investors.”

Hornor added that the company had combined “the most cost efficient methods for billing, operations, customer service and development at scale while respecting the local customs within the areas where we operate.”

Powerhive described First Solar’s backing of the company as “a major validation” of the Berkley-based company’s technology, allowing it to prove its rural electrification solutions at commercial scale.

First Solar made an investment of undisclosed value in the company in 2013 and continues to provide its expertise in scaling deployment, technology and commercial development.

Marc van Gerven, First Solar global marketing vice president, also serves on Powerhive’s board of directors.

“Our support of Powerhive stems from a belief that we need to transform the world from being energy supply-driven to being demand-driven,” van Gerven said. “In other words, energy generation and delivery need to be optimized to ensure that electricity is available when it is needed and where it is needed; this is the driving principle behind our focus on local energy.”

Van Gerven added that Powerhive’s innovative technology formed an “important part of the local energy value chain – the metering and control of locally generated electricity – allowing us to move closer to our objective of delivering affordable, locally-generated energy on demand.”

Powerhive’s technology enables micro-grid deployments in rural regions. Its portfolio includes the Honeycomb cloud-based remote monitoring and control platform, the Asali smart meter and the Site Wizard for Analysis, Reconnaissance and Mapping (SWARM) project development tool.

The company has operated four pilot deployments in Kenya for more than two years, constituting a total generation capacity of 80 kW and serving four rural villages, benefitting more than 1,500 people, ranging from residential users to small businesses and making possible a range of commercial services that were previously unavailable, including maize milling, welding, incubating chickens and hair salons.

Powerhive last year participated in Beyond the Grid, an initiative launched by the U.S. government’s Power Africa program, which aims to provide electricity for 20 million homes and businesses in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania.