Researchers and students at the University of California, Berkley are partnering with non-profit GRID Alternatives to study off-grid solar projects in Nicaragua, Nepal and tribal communities in the US. Through the partnership Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) will work with GRID staff to evaluate projects. The research will expand off-grid projects internationally, helping many low-income families and communities generate clean, reliable electricity.
Currently GRID Alternatives is developing a 16-kilowatt solar-powered microgrid project in Dhapchung, Nepal. The project will provide electricity to a school, 40 families and local businesses.
Thus far the organization has installed 70 solar PV systems in Nicaragua. Under the new partnership RAEL will evaluate the GRID projects for efficiency and stability to help inform future projects.
Off-grid solar systems are an invaluable resource in developing countries, especially those located remotely and have limited or no access to electricity. For example, a hospital located over 5 hours away in the mountains of Haiti has recently received a backup battery system for the facility, eliminating the need for expensive diesel generators.
“Getting electricity to the 1.2 billion people who still lack access is about more than cutting edge technologies. It’s about finding solutions that are culturally, socially and economically appropriate, and are really solving the problem they are intended to solve,” said Professor Dan Kammen, a member of GRID’s National Advisory Council and recently appointed US Science Envoy for the State Department. “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.”
RAEL was founded by Kammen as part of UC Berkley’s Energy and Resources Group, and students will work with community members directly and help secure funding for research projects. Students will conduct system modeling and design research, technical potential analysis, qualitative surveys, and impact analysis with a focus on social and cultural issues. The information will help increase access to solar power for low-income families, particularly those in developing nations.
Student volunteer programs are a big part of the GRID Alternative mission, allowing students interested in renewable energy to gain skills training while helping low-income families. For instance, in 2016 its Solar Spring Break program helped roughly 100 higher education students get hands-on experience installing solar power on the homes of low-income homeowners who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it.Tweet