In the United States and other developed nations, the goal is to make the grid smarter and more energy efficient. In Nigeria and elsewhere, the goal has been simply to give everyone access to the grid. But now a number of companies are working to help such trailing regions of the world “leapfrog” the energy problems of industrialized nations with clean electricity. Among them is Schneider Electric, which recently announced the inauguration of a pilot project for rural electrification via solar in the Nigerian community of Asore.
Schneider’s “Villasol” project is, essentially, a micro off-grid power station designed for decentralized rural electrification. Photovoltaic panels, a battery bank and a battery charging station from the backbone of a communal recharge system; the facility supplies electricity for schools, health centers and water pumps, as well as public lighting via a paid model for around 100 households, all without connection to the grid.
Schneider has had some experience in deploying this type of system during other pilot projects in Madagascar, Indonesia and Vietnam, which led it to refine the system based on feedback and usage patterns. For the pilot project in Nigeria, the Villasol system has been modified to provide 24-hour, continuous service for lighting and electrical connections for the only school in the village, as well as the solar powerhouse, and a portable lamp and battery system that villagers can pay to recharge. (This lamp and battery system comes from In-Diya, a solar home lighting system already commercialized by Schneider Electric in India and Bangladesh.)
The Villasol installation is expected to pay for itself in five years, Schneider said, thanks to optimized cabling costs and the battery charging station business model. Villasol and In-Diya are developed in the frame of the Schneider’s Business, Innovation & People at the Base of the Pyramid energy access program, which seeks to bring electricity solutions to rural areas of developing nations.
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