Why Solar Microgrids May Fall Short in Replacing the Caribbean’s Devastated Power Systems – IEEE Spectrum


 After the destruction inflicted across the Caribbean by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, renewable energy advocates are calling for a rethink of the region’s devastated power systems. Renewables advocates argue that the island grids should leapfrog into the future by interconnecting hundreds or thousands of self-sufficient solar microgrids.

Some power system experts, however, say the solar-plus-batteries vision may be oversold. 

 What is clear is that several firms are trying to move fast while they talk, equipping rooftop solar systems with battery storage that enables consumers to operate independently of stricken grids. Such solar microgrids will deliver power to solar system owners far faster than grid restoration. 

Giving up big transmission lines sounds optimistic to Rockwell at the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), because batteries are still a rather costly way to balance variable renewable generation.

“You can build community-type microgrids that have some combination of natural gas generation, solar and storage,” says Enchanted Rock CEO Thomas McAndrew.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Off-Grid Electricity Projects Are Starved for Funds

    Despite innovative off-grid technology and high-profile initiatives, electrification in sub-Saharan Africa still trails population growth. In 2009 there were 585 million people in the region without power. Five years later, that figure had risen to 632 million, according to the latest International Energy Agency statistics.

    A first-of-its-kind analysis of the flow of capital, released in September by the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All program, shows that off-grid systems simply are not getting the support they deserve.

    “This research shows that only 1 percent of financing for electrification is going into this very promising and dynamic energy solution,”

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tesla makes quick work of Puerto Rico hospital solar power relief project

    Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted on Twitter that Tesla’s solar team could indeed outfit Puerto Rico with power facilities that could be used to generate and store power reserves when the existing grid isn’t available, as it has been after the U.S. territory faced the devastation of hurricane Maria. Now, Tesla is showing that it’s making good on its promise of help, with significant progress being made on one solar generation/storage facility on the island.

    The facility in question will provide power to Hospital del Niño, with a combination of solar cells and Tesla’s Powerpack commercial energy storage batteries.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Build your own open source solar panels

    Do-it-yourself electricity generation is still difficult and expensive. The inventors of the SunZilla project aim to make it easier, cleaner, portable, quiet, and completely open source.

    The SunZilla system is designed to replace diesel and gasoline-powered generators for portable and emergency power: camping, events, mobile phone charging station, provide power to refugee camps, or keep the lights on during a power outage. Two people can set it up in a few minutes. It is modular and plug-and-play.


  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Trump Administration Places High Tariffs On Imported Solar Panels

    At the start of this week, the US signed off on tariffs for two items largely imported from abroad, particularly China: washing machines and solar panels.

    the US will now place a tariff (tax) on imported solar panels, a whopping 30 percent, as soon as a 2.5-gigawatt capacity is imported. This will decrease over the next four years to 15 percent.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Electrifying the Land of High Passes

    Providing solar power for remote villages in the Himalayas

    As an active volunteer with IEEE Smart Village—a priority initiative of the IEEE Foundation that aspires to bring electricity to 50 million people in developing regions by 2025

    Dorjay, a chef from the first village electrified by GHE, has joined the organization and now handles all local logistics including transportation, installation, maintenance, and repair. He surveys each village before GHE installs its microgrids to better understand villagers’ unique needs. He also creates a shared bank account for each village that’s used to pay for continued maintenance and repair. Each household pays 100 rupees (about US $1.50) per month.

    Together, this core team at GHE has electrified 55 villages, reaching nearly 20,000 people in all corners of Ladakh. The GHE mission has expanded beyond electrification. GHE now builds education centers using local area network (LAN) technology and courses preloaded onto hard drives.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Startup Profile: ME SOLshare’s “Swarm Electrification” Powers Villages in Bangladesh

    Bangladesh hosts the world’s largest collection of off-grid solar energy systems. Rooftop panels and batteries electrify over 4 million households and businesses there. The Dhaka-based startup ME SOLshare believes it has the technology to link these systems and foster a solar energy-sharing economy. If the company succeeds, home systems will morph into village minigrids, offering wider access to more power at lower cost.

    SOLshare’s European founders—Sebastian Groh, Hannes Kirchhoff, and Daniel Ciganovic—conceived their “swarm electrification” power-sharing platform during grad-school brainstorming sessions in Germany and California. The three moved to Dhaka to define, engineer, and launch their product, starting with power measurements in off-grid solar homes.

    A smart power controller, called a SOLbox, is installed in each home or business and linked with cables to other local SOLboxes to form a DC distribution grid. The SOLbox enables users to set how much power they want to share with or draw from the network, and at what price.

    The SOLbox handles the accounting, too, reconciling power purchases and sales—as well as SOLshare’s brokerage fee—via each user’s mobile money wallet. Wireless communications allow SOLshare to optimize power flows over the meshed DC grids to minimize bottlenecks and line losses.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nigerian invention to transform Africa’s power market

    For decades, Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, has been plagued by a lack of power generating capacity that has handicapped its development efforts. Now, a pioneering local start-up claims to have developed a solution in the form of its A2 300 and A2 300D power assembly units that are on the verge of being rolled out commercially to critical technical acclaim. If the units perform as expected they could provide the sort of transformational change that Nigeria and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa’s power sector has long been waiting for.

    These portable and mobile power/energy boxes take energy generated from a solar or grid source, treat it for storage in a battery bank and distribute it via outlets for utility consumption. And at a rated 300Watts of power they outperform their nearest competitors, which are either low capacity (60Watts) or are too pricy or bulky. The power units are the brainchild of a couple of Nigerian entrepreneurs, Engr. Patrick Okem Anyadike, CEO of Nutshell Concepts Ltd and Nutshell Concepts Global


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