Are Microgrids The Key To Powering Rural Africa?  

Siemens and Solarkiosk speak to Impact4All about how they are joining forces to power off-grid parts of rural Africa with microgrids

One of the most exciting developments at the Intersolar Europe conference held in Munich this year was the signing of an MoU between Siemens and Solarkiosk – a partnership that should prove transformative through Siemens’ enhanced digitalisation of Solarkiosk’s projects in remote parts of East Africa.

Solarkiosk already has a strong presence in the continent – it has deployed more than 250 projects in twelve African countries, serving roughly five million people.

“We have implemented about 200 kiosks – we are one of East Africa’s biggest retail operations, far away from the cities out there in the villages,” Thomas Rieger, director of sales and marketing, Solarkiosk, tells Impact4All in an exclusive interview.

“We plan to set up 5,000 more kiosks in the next five years. The major challenge for us is to make sure that those kiosks that run on autonomous solar power based on battery management systems, that we know when the system is up and when the system is down.

“To reduce our cost of operation, it is incremental for us to know at any stage what kind of appliances are working, what is the state of the battery and how the system is functioning. And that’s where the cooperation with Siemens comes in.”

Solarkiosk currently operates a solar powered E-HUBB, which serves as the business centrepiece for a rural off-grid village providing retail and energy related services such as charging for mobile phones, batteries and lights, as well as internet connectivity and financial inclusion services, among others.

Solarkiosk currently operates a solar powered E-HUBB, which serves as the business centrepiece for a rural off-grid village providing retail and energy related services such as charging for mobile phones, batteries and lights, as well as internet connectivity and financial inclusion services, among others.

The first joint project as a basis for further development will be located in Rwanda for which Siemens will implement a microgrid gateway to analyse data from both Solarkiosk’s existing energy systems and retail businesses and to enable remote control of the E-HUBB, with an aim to improve service and energy usage.

Constantin Ginet, head of microgrid, Siemens, tells Impact4All: “The whole MoU and the project that we’re doing together is about digitalising those solar kiosks. They are all installed in remote areas but they have mobile connections – mobile connections helps the data and communications to happen. And for us, it’s all about pooling that data and being able to analyse that data.”

Rieger adds: “Currently, there’s a lot of renewables out in Africa and south-east Asia, but when we talk about decentralised energy systems such as Solarkiosk or low-voltage applications, they’re just running out there and you don’t know what’s going to happen with them. So serviceability and drawing conclusions out of the state of the system that it is in has to happen through digitalisation.

“Even from the very small applications such as solar home systems and pay-as-you-go payment models that are now the buzzword in powering underdeveloped countries with electricity, you need to digitalise your assets in order to be able to capture maintenance and business information on the state of the application.”

Click here to read more about the MoU signed between Siemens and Solarkiosk.

 

 

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Impact4All is designed to deliver the full spectrum of news, analysis and connectivity that allows all players and audiences to become informed and participate at any level in the new energy sector. It is designed to break down barriers between audiences, activists and investors.

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