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Solar power in developing countries: will PV-supported micro-grids provide the next wave of demand?

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By Andy Skumanich, CEO, SolarVision Co.; Shannon K. Fulton, Contributing Consultant, SolarVision Co.

Traditional markets for PV will be scaling back on the level of demand for PV, but there are already signs that the developing countries will be stepping in to pick up the slack. This will be a combination of both standard grid-connected and micro-grid types of installation. Micro-grids present the opportunity for countries to develop a cellphone type of model for power distribution whereby regions without electrification can have a regional power source that allows for local access. This market is projected to become significant in the next several years, as the access to lower cost PV makes this option more easily implemented. This paper evaluates the market size of what has been an overlooked ‘niche’ for PV and describes the key considerations for a micro-grid installation, the developing conditions favouring installation, and some of the specifics of a micro-grid case study. The point is made that the grid-connected market will be increasingly assisted by the micro-grid segment as the latter becomes a significant source of PV demand and energy provision. Contrary to common notions, the micro-grid and hybrid off-grid segments will play an increasing role, even in areas with a grid in place.

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