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Micro-Grids Transforming Local African Energy

Nearly 100 million people are now on the first steps of the energy ladder thanks to the rapid deployment of solar home systems in poor communities across the world. That’s incredible progress that marks the beginning, not the end, of clean energy access. With increasing attention being paid to the missing middle (the area where those moving up the energy ladder meet those being forced down by dysfunctional grids reliant on distributed diesel generators) excitement about the opportunity to end energy poverty is palpable. Now an emerging set of micro grid developers are bent on proving they can make good on that promise and potentially transform the architecture of the grid while they’re at it.

Community-level solar micro-grids supply electricity to a network of houses in a community, providing clean reliable electricity 24 hours a day. Leveraging AC power and larger power capacities they can support the next levels of energy access by incorporating productive end-use applications like drip irrigation systems, grain mills, and refrigeration. Perhaps most importantly they can be grid interoperable meaning they could provide the back bone of a truly resilient distributed, smart grid in countries that have yet to build out grid infrastructure.

Morgana Wingard/USAID

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