Off-grid solar mini-grids light up Africa

For the past two decades, many rural homes in Africa have relied on solar home systems to meet their basic power needs such as a few light bulbs, charging the family’s mobile phones and powering small appliances like radios and televisions.

Now, larger off-grid systems known as mini-grids (MGs) capable of powering bigger appliances — fridges, flour and maize mills and even welding equipment — are increasingly being installed in rural areas.

The mini-grid space continues to attract a lot of attention from development partners,” said the Africa Solar Industry Association in its latest analysis. “There are already many MGs in operation, and many more to come.”

The recent commissioning of more than 60 solar-powered mini-grids in the Kolda region of southern Senegal is just one example.

The Senegalese Rural Electrification Agency project targets the provision of mini-grids to more than 300 villages by 2024. The mini-grids have the capacity to power street lights, refrigerators, millet and peanut shelling machines and water pumps.

In March, the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group approved a $28.49 million grant to help the Ghanaian government install 35 solar mini-grids to power 400 schools, 200 health centres and 100 community energy service systems.