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Introduction to off-grid energy options for renewable energy systems

This guide is designed to help those who require modern energy-consuming equipment in off-grid areas and who must select appropriate power equipment. Particularly, it is aimed at:

  • Decision makers in rural areas not served by grid electricity; or,
  • Decisional makers and technical staff supporting communities in remote or rural areas; or,
  • Those who are considering solar electric (PV) systems for their power requirements.

Rural development is greatly enhanced by the availability of decent lighting, pumping, refrigeration and audio-visual/communication tools. There is a wide variety of equipment available to meet these needs. However, matching pumps, fridges, lights and other appliances with appropriate power sources is not always easy or straightforward. Making the wrong choice of appliance or power system can be expensive, time-consuming or even fatal to the success of your business or community development activity. It is therefore critical that planners and purchasers of off-grid appliances – and the energy systems that power them – choose cost-effective and technically viable alternatives.

“Off-grid” means that you are not connected to an electricity grid or network. This is fairly rare in Europe or North America (limited to camping areas, very isolated sites, etc.). However, it is very common in rural areas, and many near-urban (peri-urban) areas of the developing world where electricity companies have been unable to connect domestic, commercial, industrial and institutional consumers. The main thrust of this workbook is to provide “off-grid solutions”.

This guide from Alternative Energy is of use to staff and planners of rural located clinics, schools, water pumping sites, homes or camps, aid projects, commercial sites (e.g., tourism, agriculture, etc.) and institutions. It addresses possible options for powering four general categories of appliances:

  • Lighting
  • Pumping
  • Cooling/refrigeration/freezing
  • Audio-visual.

For each of the above, this guide outlines viable options in equipment selection, infrastructure support required, and technology costs and benefits. This guide provides signposts to help you make decisions. There is a wide range of information available from renewable energy technology suppliers and support institutions. Once you know what you want, be it a fridge, a lighting system, a television and video player, a pump or a combination of the three, you should read the particular section in this guidebook for basic information.

Access the tool here: Introduction to off-grid energy options for renewable energy systems.