American Tech Stores African Power
Madagascar is a place with abundant natural diversity, resources, and truly warm people. Unfortunately, it is also a place where only 15% of the people enjoy the illumination from an electric lamp at night. The government of Madagascar wants to help, aiming to increase access to electricity to 70% by 2030. 85% of that total will come from renewable sources of energy like the sun, wind and rivers, of which Madagascar has an abundance.
The United States has been a leader in renewable energy for over a century. So it makes sense that Malagasies are interested in working with American firms to figure out how to add millions of connections over the next 13 years.
Power Africa partner Fluidic Energy is one of these firms. It recently provided an integrated energy storage system — in layman’s terms, an exceptionally high tech battery, hooked up to 700 industrial solar panels — as part of a grant for a pilot project in Belobaka that will supply electricity to over 27,000 homes and businesses. Fluidic was chosen for the pilot, supported by a grant from Power Africa interagency partner U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), because it’s proven technology designed to support 48 hours of autonomous power supply even in times of reduced sunlight, utilizing cloud-based connectivity controlled from a centralized operating center, which can be reliably rolled out to the 99 additional sites if the pilot proves successful.
Check out a video of the Belobaka site inauguration here (turn the volume down).
The standard critique is that they only provide power when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. To have power 24 hours per day, 7 days per week means you need a battery, or batteries, and the function of storing the power as inexpensively and reliably as possible is just as important as generating it.
American ingenuity demonstrated by Fluidic Energy shows that you can store intermittent power on a large scale. This is great news for people living in Madagascar, who will get electricity for the first time in the next decade not thanks to a massive national infrastructure project, but from smaller, village-level mini-grids like the one in Belobaka.