Energy Access Brings Improved Quality of Life and Boosts Local Economies


It’s common wisdom that renewable microgrids benefit the communities that have been electrified. We look at communities that have experienced the impact firsthand.

Between 700 million and 1.2 billion people don’t have access to basic electricity, according global research organization World Resources Institute. Many live in communities unable to access their countries’ electric grid. Instead, they fuel cooking, heating and lighting with diesel generators, biomass fuel, trees—whatever energy source they can get. Not only are these methods inefficient, but they are polluting and often dangerous to the community’s health. For these reasons alone, electrification is a critical goal.

Over the years, Microgrid News has published stories on communities that have gone from energy poverty to full electrification through the installation of renewable-energy microgrids. Each newly electrified community has its own story and its own unique results.

Lomiro, Nigeria

Lomiro, an off-grid community of 600 residents in Ogun State, southwest Nigeria, is known for palm-oil production and cassava cultivation. For decades, residents and businesses in Lomiro relied on diesel or gas-powered generators. Farm produce was processed using locally invented equipment that reduced quality and quantity and increased both production time and health risks.

The high cost of power made it difficult for businesses to succeed, and many left. Then, in 2020, Ashipa Electric Limited, out of Lagos, Nigeria, was chosen as a beneficiary of the Techstars EnergyTech Alabama accelerator program and used its funds to design and install Lomiro’s renewable-energy microgrid.

The micro-grid is a DC-coupled system with a total panel size of 15kWp made up of 39 units of 380W monocrystalline solar modules. The system is deployed with a 20kWh Lithium-ion battery accompanied by a 48V, 15kVA inverter, and managed by Ashipa Electric’s custom-made micro-grid management software, Ashgrid.  

Since its operation began, access to clean and reliable electricity has enabled the community to flourish. It transitioned from diesel- or gasoline-powered equipment to solar-powered processing machines. The move to solar power has reduced the cost of energy required for food production and improved the quality of processed foods, positioning the community to export finely processed foods. 

Businesses like cafes, movie theaters and bars have emerged, along with much-needed infrastructure development. Abandoned projects such as roads have resumed. Safety has also improved, with electricity available to power streetlights and security lights. In addition, the microgrid now powers pumps at several boreholes within the community, providing affordable access to clean drinking water.

Deer Creek First Nation, Canada

In the winter of 2013-2014, the Deer Lake First Nation, with about 1,200 people, experienced a 10% increase in its peak demand. The growth left the utility unable to connect five new homes recently built in the community, as the existing diesel system had reached its capacity. Deer Lake First Nation is an Oji-Cree First Nations band government in Northern Ontario, Canada.

Canadian Solar worked with the tribe on a phased-in solar capacity development plan. Shipping the system materials was a critical challenge, as they were packed, braced and shipped in two 40-foot containers—over 1,367 miles (2,200 km) over bumpy, frozen winter roads. The team conducted the installation in minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (which is also minus 40 Celsius) weather with heavy snowfalls. But despite the various challenges, the team completed the solar system installation three weeks later.

The system includes 1000kW diesel generation, 500kW hydro turbines and a 152kW DC solar PV system. The orientation of the roof mounted system was not optimal, but the PV system achieved a respectable 794kWh/kWp. Total energy yield in 2015 was 121MWh.

The installed photovoltaic system cuts the community’s energy bill by $112,000 (USD) every year, with an estimated system payback set for this year. The project generated two part-time jobs supporting operations and maintenance. The new system displaces diesel fuel by at least 31,000 liters per year and reduced emissions by 99 tons annually—equivalent to the carbon emission of 20 cars. With Canadian Solar’s help, remote Canadian First Nations communities gained access to reliable, affordable clean energy.

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