Sustainability off off-grid
Photovoltaic-                  Systems for
Electrification in Countries

Development in Construction and Real Estate, Senior Lecture Mr. Eric Pollock

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Ghule, Masters Student ConRem


electrification ratio that the government in India identified was 73%, but only
8% of the villages have power supply. A village would be considered electrified
if electricity is provided in schools, panchayat offices, health centres,
community centres etc. Two challenges to electrify household in villages are
poor people cannot afford to pay the cost of connection and other even if they
get the connection, the supply is far from being reliable that is connected to

Due to some of
villages are located in rural areas we have limited access to infrastruces.
Also use of fossil fuels can be found to be most expensive, polluting and
noisy. Thus a Renewable source of energy should be considered. Has Hydro Power
and on grid solar are connected to main grid, a cheaper and reliable source that
is off grid should be considered for areas having less densification and less
usage of infrastructures.

A single power
system is an off grid system that allows electrification for a single customer
through various electrical appliances. “According
to the power dimension, they can be grouped into four categories: portable
lights (i.e. rechargeable & solar lanterns), mini kits (i.e. pico hydro
& pico solar systems), Home Systems (supplied by solar SHS or pico-hydro)
and Residential Systems (generally supplied by hydro, wind or solar –with
diesel backup or not)”.

review will make the companies and stakeholders understand the issue and
advantages and dis advantages of systems affecting sustainability for further

Keywords: Off grid
systems, rural electrification, sustainable energy, developing countries.


Energy in all its
form underpins both past and future growth. Developing Countries need to
address energy challenges which cross all sectors and impacts citizen. Energy
offers great development to be reliable, energy efficient, heating, cooking,
mechanical services etc. “According to the United
Nations (UN), Sustainable Development (SD) is not possible without sustainable
energy, such that the issue has been prioritized by devoting a stand-alone SD
goal to sustainable energy, which implies universal access to affordable,
reliable and modern energy”.

Although there is no
universal definition of energy access and data are often scarce, the
International Energy Agency (IEA) defines energy access as “household having
access to electricity and to a relatively clean, safe means of cooking”. For
electricity, the methodology used by the IEA is fixing a minimum annual
household consumption of 250 Kilowatt-hours (kWh) in rural areas and 500 kWh in
urban areas. According to this definition, 1.2 billion people worldwide are
still lacking access to electricity, especially those from rural areas.

Power Grid is a development
of off grid technology .One of Technology is photovoltaic which has been
developed in many developing countries which provides as a source of
electricity in rural and dense areas where there are acute problems of


Figure 1: Types of Solar PV Systems for
off-grid photovoltaic systems.

PV systems would be used in different ways
ranging from less than 10Wp commonly known as PICO Systems used for Housing
appliances such as kerosene lamps, others known as Solar Home Systems ranging
from 10-130Wp used for battery charging TV etc. and others solar mini grids
having range greater than 5Wp used in villages for electrification.



The following PV systems are used by Industry
for rural electrification –

1). Solar
Potable Lights: These is a mean of single-light source with or
without mobile phone charging outlet. These typically consist of a complete in-build unit, comprising a
battery, solar panel, wiring, power regulation and lighting bulbs or diodes,
most often LED’s. These units are designed to be versatile and very tough to
survive in remote and hostile conditions without requiring significant on-going


                                 (a). Solar Portable Lights Source: ARE


2). Pico Systems: Multi lights source
applications with mobile phone charging outlet made of a kit of components.



                                   (b). Pico PV System Source: ARE







3). Solar
Home Systems: They consists of number of components which
needs to be installed in building such as PV module on Roof , a battery ,a
charger and a inverter AC supply.

Solar Home Systems (SHS)   Source: ARE



Failures in rural
electrification has often been regarded due to failure in laws and appropriate
standards. Also policy changes by government has severe effect on off-grid PV
systems causing uncertainty in money flow. The Cost of Operation and
maintenance over the cycle is increased. Also since energy consumption is
related with income of users it is bound to create conflicts within the
society. Has PV systems has multiple components each components has a separate
maintenance policy for smooth working requires a team to operate that systems.
Within this section, provide information on and discuss the problem that your
topic addresses. The output of solar Module depends on various factors such as
irradiation, cleanliness of system, efficiency of system etc. The operation of
system is easy as compared to other renewables but care must be taken for PV
modules has they account for 80% of Cost. The Water used for cleaning of PV
modules should be free from any kind of salt so as to avoid salt decomposition
on Bus-bar leading to corrosion. Also areas near to sea coast where systems are
installed may lead to corrosion on frame due to salty air. Any shadow effect on
PV modules may cause hot – spots on modules thus reducing its life and would
degrade at early stage. Thus all the ill effects related to PV module can be
identified locally and also through proper instrumentation.




 In developing countries, data sources for
off-grid systems are often found in agencies or ministries dealing with rural
electrification or in international development agencies. However, statistics
offices often exclude data on sub-MW installations in their data sets, although
these comprise the majority of off-grid systems. Many development agencies are
involved in the development of mini-grids but do not necessarily collect and
supply data back to the ministries or statistical offices. Further analysis showed allocating the
results to the set of indicators associated with the sustainability dimensions
considered. It should be noted that,  sustainability has been considered to be
three-dimensional (either in the form of a pillar model, concentric circles or
overlapping circles).



Sustainable for off-grid PV systems require
statutory formal institutions, which are characterized by their stability
(durability) and their enforcement. Prior of rural electrification efforts have
shown that weak formal institutions hinder the compliance with rules due to peoples’
expectations of sudden changes or a lack of enforcement.

The adoption of a regulatory frame and
standards favours the sustainability of rural electrification efforts based on
off-grid PV systems. The existence of an agency aimed at rural electrification
has been shown to have a positive effect. A decentralized agency may also
facilitate adaptability and participative decision-making, thus enhancing the
chances of a technology to meet the needs of the population.


Although PV technologies for rural
electrification yield long-term benefits in terms of pollution abatement and
climate change mitigation, the lack of environmental awareness and policies (for
example on ensuring recycling and proper disposal of PV modules and batteries)
may also lead to negative environmental co-impacts.


Off-grid PV systems offer an alternative for
greater equality, as it can provide energy access to the vulnerable population
(e.g., women or indigenous people) where a grid connection is not possible to

For an energy system to be sustainable, it
must be accurate (which means meeting the needs of the community respecting its
particularities and culture); and it must be socially accepted (which requires
the active participation and engagement of the community in the design, implementation
and operation of the project).







Economical Sustainability



Effectiveness: – For an
electrification to be sustainable economically it should be cost effective
in longer run. Off-Grid systems can be effective in longer run considering
lo per capita energy consumptions. However government in most countries
favour conventional energy sources over oil, gas, petroleum. Duties were
found to be around 50% on PV cells and Modules. These
policies favour

Unsuitable energy sources, neglecting the
internalization of external costs caused by environmental damages and, in turn,
blocking cost-effective solutions. Also due to all these policies for cost
effectiveness, they have a larger investment return while lower operation and
maintenance cost as compare to other off-grid renewable system like the diesel
generator. Therefore low income household peoples neglect buying these kind of


– These kind of renewable energy systems makes the energy reliable in
longer run. For rural areas energy demands for availability of various
spare parts, as well as user should identify the functionalities and
technical know-how. The availability of Parts often held up the projects
has the parts were located far away from the project locations. However in
many cases the spare parts are not available due to requirement in other
project location in big countries. The scarcity of

Spare parts makes off-grid PV systems unreliable, thus
compromising their sustainability. To make the system friendly training have
been provided to the people.


Investment: – Sustainability also offers affordability in case of Off –
Grid systems. The programmes held in rural areas are unprofitable due to
low energy demand. In India for instance, given the unequal income
distribution, SHS could only be afforded by around 10% of households. Part
of the problem is that rural households are mainly socially deprived and
not in a strong bargaining position to negotiate conditions for the
acquisition of a system. Even if a loan for off-grid PV systems is
provided to rural families, this does not imply that the users can meet
the repayment rates. In addition to the irregular income of rural families
and despite being aware of their instalment rates, these families often
have no clear view of their earnings. Due to all these electrification in
rural areas should include policy changes, which means allocating funds
for initial investment, operation and maintenance.


and Maintenance: – For off-grid systems require maintenance of around 25
years which is huge in terms of years. The cost of ONM can hardly be
estimated and depends on local users, DC Cables etc. The cost can be
repaired by subsidizing the electricity traffics. Therefore, an effective
cross tariff scheme that helps the poor and covers ONM cost in longer run
should be brought in process.


Environmental Sustainability


Awareness: – Environmental sustainability regulates the society about
environmental norms and regulations. Kollmuss and Agyeman define environmental awareness
as “knowing of the impact of human behaviour on the environment”. Education is of prime
importance in creating environmental regulations. Education only is not
responsible in creating the regulation, human nature is also of prime
importance how the user takes it and also by external factors such as economic
factors. Also lack of policies and recycling of batteries and PV modules
if not properly understood results in devastating effects such as lead of
batteries would contaminate nearby rivers and lakes if not properly



Environmental Impacts: – As the impact due to Off-Grid systems is low, the
systems helps in less pollution and climate mitigation. In reply to these
the fossil fuels emit large amount of pollution and toxics causing serious
climate issues producing black carbon. The effect of black carbon is not
only produced by heating or cooking but also due to lightning. It has been
found that that worldwide, approximately 500 million households consume 77
billion litres of kerosene and other liquid fuels for lightning. The
environmental impact considering the same is significant, as 7%–9% of fuel
from kerosene lamps converts to almost pure Black Carbon. Indeed, 270,000
tons of Black Carbon are currently emitted by these lamps, which is
roughly equivalent to the forcing that 230 million tons of CO2 exerts over
100 years after its emission.


Environmental Impacts: – As these kind of Renewable source of energy are
helpful in reducing negative impact on environment due to lighting in
remote areas, they do harm the environment if not properly used. One of
the major disadvantage is battery disposal. People often throw their Lead
Acid battery as regular waste. Also they are given as a toy for small
children. These cases show that even presumably clean technologies may
become environmentally unsustainable in the context of a scarcity of
environmental awareness and regulations, weak enforcement and lacking
incentives. However all these can be avoided if proper rules and
regulations are enforced and adopted. Battery recycling policy should be
introduced by government for battery retailers to recycle the used



Social Sustainability


– Accessibility is often driven by social justice, which determine
equality among various people of different caste and religion. Off-Grid
provides a good equity among people as it’s provide clean source of energy
where light is not viable. Household electrification is important not only
because women are the main users of residential electricity, but also because
they have to carry the burden of collecting biofuels (leading to physical
exhaustiveness and a significant loss of their time that could be used for
productive uses); girls cannot attend school because they have to help
their mothers collect biofuels; without electricity, women do not have
access to information through telecommunication on modern family planning,
their rights and empowerment; and women are mainly exposed to indoor air
pollution. Despite a huge boom of SHS systems, women didn’t have jobs as
entrepreneur in Renewable Energy Sector, which was due to male dominant
Industry. The gap between urban and rural electricity consumption in India
has tripled in 25 years. The situation is often aggravated due to higher electricity
tariffs in rural areas.



– To determine accurate capacity of system is challenging since the models
used in developed countries are not suitable in rural areas. New models
should be developed but lack of data is challenging factor for same. In
many countries the unavailability of data is biggest barrier in
development of systems in rural areas. Inaccurate systems often lead to
unsatisfied users and in turn unsustainable solutions. For instance, in
Indonesia, users were dissatisfied with the SHS, because they expected
them to run applications, such as TVs or radios, refrigerators or rice
cookers, as they had been used to from diesel generators. Moreover,
adaptation of system to locals can be challenging as who the users are and
how they would be using same. Women’s necessities are indeed often ignored
in the design of the project/technology despite their substantial
importance for accurate solutions as principle energy users. SHS did not
provide sufficient energy for family meals, and cooking with solar cooking
stoves did not match with the eating time of many cultures. These issues
occurred because the energy systems were designed according to men’s
prospects, although women were the principal energy users, resulting in
inaccurate solutions for the users and ultimately in the system’s
abandonment. Understanding Rural accuracy is important to improve the
accuracy of same and thus reducing rejection and disappointments.





These paper has
brought an overview about challenges, improvements and methods for off grid
renewable energy. In terms of off grid systems, specifically in mini grid
Diesel Generators are quite dominant in Industry. Looking forward to these
there are many sudden changes of growth in off grid renewable energy expected
in near future. Significant market exits to succeed the common mini grid Diesel
Generators. The rapid growth of same in developing countries is slowly but
picking the pace to outperform on-Grid Renewable Source of Energy.

The Data suggests
large amount of work is required to bring data in a single sheet .As per
current market scenario these is rejected. There is a need also to develop data
consistency among off grid renewable systems and also comparability among mini
grids. Until all these happens it will not be possible to track the progress of
off-grid systems and also Operation and maintenance and investment in same will
be limited. For example, the Rocky
Mountain Institute (RMI) has used a software programme called HOMER to evaluate
when off-grid, solar PV deployment of renewables will become economically more
advanta­geous than staying connected to the grid (RMI, 2014).The Reiner Lemoyne
Institute has also developed some techno-economic optimisation models to
evaluate hybrid mini-grids (Huskens and Blechinger, 2014), and the IEA
Photo-voltaic Power Systems Programme (IEA PVPS) has developed some life cycle
cost assessments for solar-based water pumping (IEA PVPS, 2012).


To quickly address all the
issues following methods needs to be adopted:-

Categorization off off-grid systems across
application and resource areas. In simpler terms how off-grid differ from
on –Grid renewable systems, renewable power generation.
The Categorization should be in terms of uses
of system, its system components and size means in KW or MW.
This paper also proposes a categorisation of mini-grids,
micro-grids, nano-grids and off-grids with as­sociated, clearly defined
indicators and upper limits.The renewable power generation capacity
connected to such off-grid systems could be the primary indicator for
tracking progress; however, it is important to use additional indicators
to provide a clearer understanding of the impact of off-grid renewable
energy systems for individual users, grid services and productive use.
The statistics for each country should improve
for off-grid renewable source of energy but will need help of end users,
technological experts and local agencies. The declining cost and improved
performance is helping them to be more effective on islands and in
developing Countries.



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5. Sarah Feron
1, 2

1 Department de Fascia Universidad de Santiago de Chile,
Ave. Bernardo O’Higgins 3363, 9170022 Santiago, Chile; [email protected] or
[email protected]

2 Institute for Sustainability Governance, Leuphana
University Luneburg, Scharnhorststraße 1,

21335 Luneburg, Germany


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