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Gridless in Africa

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A couple weeks ago, I highlighted the Rolls Royce Series 4000, a 16 cylinder natural gas beast that’s capable of pumping out up to 2,500 kW. The 4000 had recently been adopted by a pork processing plant in Puebla, Mexico. Being energy self-sufficient was a necessity for the factory because it’s located in an area unconnected to the grid. The plant is now using a couple Series 4000s along with one MTU Onsite Energy diesel generator, all under one control system. All in all, the system produces 7.7 MW of electrical power. At the moment, this setup is powering the processing facility on its own, but they’ll be making additions soon. Specifically, they plan on adding a biogas system to harness the power of their own pigs’ waste. 

I went on to speculate that similar technologies would spur investment in the developing world, places where shotty grids have discouraged business owners from setting up shop. As luck would have it, this morning I came across ESI Africa, an online journal that covers power issues on the continent. One of the latest articles, one pulled from their weekly newsletter, gave African business owners a how-to on going off the grid. As the author notes, there are various reasons to go off the grid in Africa: “These forms of modus operandi are literally burning your money, putting your equipment at risk during power surges, and increasing your business’s carbon footprint.” 

They go on to highlight a few important steps. First, convert and change: Invest in more efficient lighting systems and sensors to consume smarter. Second, identify the system: Research gas, diesel and solar systems to see what’s best for you. You’ll also need a good battery system. Finally, finance the project: Don’t worry too much about initial cost, it will pay for itself longterm and banks give loans for this kind of stuff. 

The article didn’t go too in depth, but it shows that it’s a subject in Africa’s industrial scene. I’ve heard that Ethiopia’s economy is on fire right now—I wonder how energy has been handled there.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 14, 2019 9:00 pm GMT

Finally, finance the project: Don’t worry too much about initial cost, it will pay for itself longterm and banks give loans for this kind of stuff. 

I'd be curious to hear more about the financing. It seems to be inherently true that it would pay for itself, but I wonder what type of outside investment is being made to make these projects happen too and if those are able to be done in a way that advantages the business. 

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