Photograph courtesy SunFarmer
Great Energy Challenge Innovator: SunFarmer
Project: Strengthening the delivery of solar energy via remote monitoring and control
Location: Kathmandu, Achham Region (various villages)
Summary: Throughout the developing world, community institutions such as hospitals and schools are located in remote areas far from electric grids. Solar energy is the most reliable and affordable option for these institutions—solar can produce energy for years with low maintenance and zero fuel. However, solar projects in remote areas have been plagued with problems. Many are not properly installed or maintained, and rare site visits often reveal that systems are not producing much or any electricity. These issues have led donors and investors to shy away from investments in rural solar projects.
SunFarmer is a social enterprise providing off-grid solar energy to community institutions in developing countries. Based on our pilot projects in Nepal, we believe that remote monitoring and control are key to making these projects successful. These functionalities will allow us to quickly respond when a system stops working, and reduce the cost of sending personnel to remote sites. This transparency will reassure investors and donors that projects are delivering both energy and impact, catalyzing investment in rural solar projects.
SunFarmer conducted extensive market research, and found that current technologies are far too expensive, and lack the key functions needed in off-grid settings. SunFarmer is developing the "Energy X Monitor" to measure key parameters such as energy output, battery health, and temperature, and also remotely shut down energy services to protect sensitive equipment such as batteries. This device will be highly relevant to donors, investors, and other solar energy companies looking to improve their off-grid services.
Goal: To catalyze massive investment into solar energy projects in developing countries
Project Participants: Jason Gray, co-founder and CFO; Andy Moon, co-founder and CEO; Peter Russo, technical consultant; Avishek Malla, head of engineering
The Great Energy Challenge grant program, in collaboration with a distinguished group of scientists acting as the board of advisors, awards roughly a half-dozen grants per year. The goal of the grant program is to hasten the growth of promising, global energy solutions as a response to climate change, energy resource constraints and environmental limitations.