Small is beautiful
This is additional reading to the blog post ‘Small is beautiful (and affordable)’
There are many reasons why large solar systems fail. Such as:
Solar systems need to be used carefully and well maintained to ensure that they last as long as possible. If they are over used and poorly maintained, then you’re looking at premature system failure.
There is another big problem which faces solar systems, however.
Even when systems are used properly, carefully maintained and operate perfectly as designed… the battery banks are typically only designed to last 5 – 8 years.
This means that if the solar system is going to remain operational, someone is going to have to pay a lot of money for a new battery bank. And that’s the problem. Who pays?
The logical answer is ‘the owner pays.’ But if it’s a rural school or clinic which received a solar system as donation, then there may simply not be the money available to buy new batteries.
At SolarAid, we installed 415 solar systems on rural schools, clinics and community centres across Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. In order to benefit from a system, the rural institution had to come up with a business plan that demonstrated how part of the power would be used to generate an income that would be made available in the future to replace batteries.
That was our answer to the problem…which is fine…but let’s be clear. Large batteries aren’t cheap and it will take a lot of commitment and organisation at each and every institution to ensure the systems remain operational in the long term.
This is one reason why we are now using smaller, picosolar, systems to light up rural classrooms. They are cheaper to purchase, repair and replace.
Another answer to the problem is to offer systems as a service, where households and institutions do not own the system. Instead, they pay to use its electricity and someone else is responsible for maintaining the system.
At SunnyMoney, we are pioneering pay as you go approaches combined with picosolar products in Africa…to further reduce financial barriers to accessing electricity and electric lighting.
In short, by using picosolar systems, we can start thinking about how we can bring solar lights to all rural schools in Africa… not just a small handful of them.
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