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WIREs Energy Environ.
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The business of distributed solar power: a comparative case study of centralized charging stations and solar microgrids

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How can distributed solar power best meet the energy needs of nonelectrified rural communities? In collaboration with a local technology provider, we conduct a techno‐economic comparison of three different models of distributed solar power in rural India. We compare a centralized charging station with two solar microgrids, one based on prepaid electricity purchases and the other on a fixed monthly fee. Customers report higher levels of satisfaction and fewer technical problems with the microgrids, but the capital cost of the microgrids is much higher than that of the centralized charging station. The prepaid system exhibits poor economic performance because the customers spend very little money on electricity. These results suggest that new business models and technological innovations are needed to strike the right balance between customer needs and commercial viability. WIREs Energy Environ 2016, 5:640–648. doi: 10.1002/wene.209

This article is categorized under:

  • Photovoltaics > Economics and Policy
  • Solar Heating and Cooling > Economics and Policy
  • Energy Research & Innovation > Systems and Infrastructure
Graphical illustration of the systems. The system on the left was installed in Aira‐Bhadiyar and the system on the right in Para (prepaid) and Sathara (postpaid).
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Household reports of wanting to use more electricity than was available. The responses were collected in weekly surveys over the implementation of the project: average interest in using more electricity among customers by (a) village and (b) village and month. In panel (b), the x‐axis denotes months from August to May, from left to right.
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Household satisfaction with Boond's electricity service. The responses were collected in weekly surveys over the implementation of the project: average satisfaction levels among customers by (a) village and (b) village and month. In panel (b), the x‐axis denotes months from August 2014 to May 2015.
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Technical problems reported by the households across the three villages. The responses were collected in weekly surveys over the implementation of the project: (a) perceived technical problems; (b) solar lighting problems; and (c) mobile phone problems.
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All‐inclusive system cost to deliver energy services for the households, relative to the total (100%). The system cost is divided into four subcategories: solar panel = cost of the PV modules; batteries = cost of the battery system; BOS = balance of system components cost, such as cables and connectors, and installation work needed to make the system operational; end‐user = equipment cost in the households, including appliances and lighting units. Type A is the centralized charging station in Aira‐Bhadiyar; type B1 the postpaid system in Sathara; type B2 the prepaid system in Para.
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Energy Research & Innovation > Systems and Infrastructure
Photovoltaics > Economics and Policy

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