Mini-grids can be developed or operated by state utilities, private companies, communities, non-governmental organizations, or a mix of different players such as public-private partnerships. The generation and distribution assets may be developed and managed by different players, both public and private. The mini-grids can run on diesel, renewables (solar PV, hydro, wind, biomass, etc.), or as renewable-diesel hybrids. Green mini-grids are those that generate a significant portion of their power from renewables.
Our mini-grids systems are hybrid enabled that combine solar power generation with your existing diesel generators to drastically reduce operations & maintenance costs for estate managers. With our Micro-grid solution, we provide efficient, low-cost, clean energy to businesses. It provides dynamic responsiveness uncommon with regular grid electricity or other energy sources.
The first step for any developer is to carry out a feasibility study on the mini-grid opportunity i.e. assess the viability of the proposed projects in the local market.
The feasibility study typically covers the following:
Existing and potential for rural electrification;
Local legal, policy, and regulatory framework, permitting, and compliance requirements;
Proposed project sites;
Projected demand (usually based on an extrapolation of socio-economic data from the last national census which needs
to be confirmed through a detailed demand assessment for the final technical design)
Preliminary technical design, cost, and revenue projections, economic, financial, environmental, and social analysis; and
A realistic implementation work plan.
Assuming the feasibility study has positive results, developers then have to choose a corporate structure for their business.
Site selection is critical and many factors must be considered when making a decision.
Key criteria include:
Existence of or distance to the national distribution grid or other mini-grids;
Population and settlement density;
Average income and purchasing power;
Existing economic activity;
Existing semi-industrials such as telecom towers;
Renewable resources; and
Accessibility and security
For example, solar mini-grid developers targeting towns or villages in close proximity may be able to support a single larger mini-grid (say 1MW or above). Those aiming at individual villages may require multiple mini-grids of varying capacities (say 20 mini-grids, each with a capacity of 40 to 200 kW). To cover their fixed costs, those developing DC Nano-grids may need to install more than 100 mini-grids of less than 10 kW.
The site is chosen in stages. During the first stage, developers typically use secondary data to identify the most promising sites. GIS data on un-electrified settlements and renewable resources, data from national rural electrification plans, and feedback from public officials and national distribution grid companies could all be included. Developers should be aware that this data may be out of date or do not reflect the reality on the ground.
Stage 2: During the second stage, developers visit the following locations:
Check the preliminary data; make contact with the relevant community and public bodies, and assess the community's appetite for the mini-grid.
It should be noted that developers of DC Nano-grids may not initially visit all of their sites, but they must still establish contact with the community and reach agreements with end users.
Stage 3: In the third stage, developers may conduct a thorough assessment of renewable resources.
This is usually not necessary for solar-based mini-grids (or DC Nano-grids) because GIS data on irradiation is freely available and usually accurate enough for the purposes of system technical design.
Developers of hydro, biomass, and wind mini-grids, on the other hand, will need to conduct detailed studies of the renewable resources available locally throughout the year, as well as the cost of those resources in the case of biomass.
When there is no historical renewable resource data, developers must run the studies for at least a year to obtain the necessary seasonal data.
Stage 4: Developers must conduct a thorough analysis of existing and potential local demand for the mini-grid.
If demand falls short of expectations, the revenue generated by the mini-grid may not be enough to cover the project's fixed costs or to cover repairs or replacement parts.
Forecasting demand is especially important for mini-grid technologies that cannot be easily scaled up or down to meet demand (for example, hydro projects or non-hybridized projects that do not have the benefit of low-Capex diesel engines).
Demand-side management is critical for these non-modular technologies to ensure that demand does not exceed supply, which could lead to conflict with communities.