Berkeley and GRID research partnership to explore off-grid solar potential

The research partnership is driven by a desire to spread electricity to the 1.2 billion people worldwide that still lack access to it. It shall study GRID Alternatives’ existing projects, as well helping to develop future projects that shall benefit from the research.

Berkley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), led by climate and energy advisor to the Obama Administration and World Bank Dr. Dan Kammen, has been exploring the ways in which off-grid solar can be expanded worldwide, and this new partnership is the continuation of this mission.

“Off-grid solar is a critical, access-changing field on its own, and is going to grow dramatically as solar becomes a ‘baseload’ technology due to its low cost, flexibility, and ability to be combined with increasingly low-cost storage,” Dr. Kammen told pv magazine. “It is already the fastest growing source of new energy access worldwide, so is affordable today. Many steps are needed to expand and accelerate this, including: attention to local manufacturing; integration with energy efficiency (aggressive super-efficiency in particular), and IT (secure online banking) is a key non-energy component of making off-grid solar work.”

Three of GRID’s projects will make up a base for the research, including solar arrays installed in Native American Tribes in the U.S., 70 PV systems installed in Nicaragua, and a microgrid that the organization is developing in Nepal. RAEL will work closely with the beneficiaries of these projects, as well as conducting various pieces of research and analysis to see their effects on the communities.

“Getting electricity to 1.2 billion people who still lack access is about more than cutting edge technologies,” added Dr. Kammen. “It’s about finding solutions that are culturally, socially and economically appropriate, and are really solving the problem they are intended to solve. Partnering with organizations like GRID doing this work on the ground is a great opportunity to study what’s working and why, and get that information to the people who can use it.”