Off-grid digest for June 19

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The African Development Bank (ADB) released a comprehensive report on the renewable energy market in Tanzania. The report, titled Renewable Energy in Africa: Tanzania Profile, outlines the factors that the NGO believe give it great potential for a huge off-grid market. Among its findings, report the authors, is that, “The vastness of the country coupled with low population density makes grid extension too expensive for many difficult-to-reach areas. This, in turn, creates significant market potential for off-grid electrification schemes that could be implemented with the participation of small power producers (SPPs).”

The ADB finds that if the country’s 2025 goal of 50% electricfication is to be reached, that around half of the rural population is to be best served by mini (20%) and off-grid (30%) options.

“Given its relatively high fuel and operating costs, diesel is generally not the most economically viable option; in the future, most of these grids may have to rely on renewables, such as hydro, biomass (thermal or biogas) and solar (where diesel/solar hybrid systems may be more appropriate).”

The ADB also found that, “About one-third of the population may need to use stand-alone or micro-grid technologies, such as solar PV, if they are to benefit from electrification in the short-to-medium term. The primary determinant would be whether load densities in these dispersed communities are too low to justify a mini grid. Various solar PV options compare favourably with kerosene lighting in terms of payback period and the amount of lighting delivered. If the added value of PV systems for charging mobile phones (and other uses requiring rechargeable or disposable batteries) is taken into account, then the preference for solar PV solutions becomes self-evident. Tanzania has experience in such solutions with about 6 MWp of off-grid solar PV deployed.”

CyboEnergy released its On/Off-Grid CyboInverter, which is designed to operate for both on- and off-grid systems. The company is due to demonstrate its product at Intersolar in mid-July in San Francisco. George Cheng, CEO of the company, said, "On-grid inverters are designed to deliver power to the grid but cannot run as off-grid inverters to power AC loads, yet off-grid inverters cannot send power to the grid when the grid is on so the solar energy is wasted. Now, we have combined both functions in one inverter to offer grid flexibility."

According to a statement from the company, the On/Off-Grid CyboInverter works like a regular on-grid inverter that meets all UL1741 requirements including: over or under voltage shutdown; over or under frequency shutdown; and anti-islanding. When the grid is down, the inverter will shut down immediately based on the UL safety rules before automatically switching to off-grid mode to support an off-grid AC circuit and power AC loads such as lights, fans, TV, computers, phone-chargers, and small refrigerators. When the grid returns, the inverter will switch to on-grid mode and send power to the grid.

Shari Berenbach, President and CEO of the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), wrote a long piece for Sun-Connect on the role that off-grid power should be playing in the development of power across Africa. Berenbach outlined the role that the USADF has played in developing the Off-Grid Energy Challenge, launched last year with GE Africa. ()

South Africa’s electricity market has been in disarray for some time, and was covered a few issues ago in pv magazine‘s print version. HTXT Africa recently ran a report on where off-grid solar seems to be filling in the gap. Among the predictions are that the ‘current exodus’ outlined by author Adam Oxford could lead to a final caving-in of the beleaguered finances of energy company ESKOM.

Note and nuggets

See News Renewables reported that Spanish turbine maker Gamesa has plans to enter the solar and off-grid markets, with a focus on India. Further details are not yet available but PV Magazine will be keeping a close eye on this one. ()

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