US solar-diesel hybrid system to power African town

November 14, 2017


Bandera Electric Cooperative, a Texas non-profit firm, is testing a solar-diesel hybrid backup power system it has built to provide electricity for around 400 homes in the rural Liberian town of Totota.


Bandera said the project combines 200 solar panels with a 90kWh lithium-ion battery system along with the backup diesel generator. The entire system is being shipped to the African town, 160km east of the capital Monrovia, this month.


The solar-battery-diesel hybrid is part of a contract between Bandera and the US National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International (NRECA International)— which estimates the overall cost from design to shipment at around $600,000. NRECA International is to provide a contribution of “at least $400,000”.


The solar panels will be set up on less than half an acre of land and feed the battery with electricity, which will then be distributed to customers hooked up to utility lines, Bandera said. The backup diesel generator “will be able to provide at least seven days of backup power for days when inclement weather reduces solar generation”.


Small businesses in Totota, which has a population of about 6,400, will also benefit from the combined power and backup facility according to Daniel Waddle, a senior vice-president of NRECA International.


Waddle said the power that Totota residents would access from the facility will cost around 30 US cents per kilowatt hour, “nearly half of the 50 to 55 cents a kilowatt hour that Monrovian residents pay to the Liberia Electricity Corporation”.


The NRECA, formed in 1942, is a trade group for US-based electric cooperatives. The association’s international arm was established in 1962 to help developing countries attain reliable and affordable electricity.


The NRECA said Liberia has had little power generation capacity since wars destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, including power plants. The US Agency for International Development estimates that only 2% of Liberia’s 4.7 million citizens have access to electricity.

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