Solar Startup Harnesses the Power of the Sun and the Mighty Zambesi

African renewable energy startup Muhanya Solar Ltd. is building a solar-powered microgrid that will deliver affordable, reliable, emissions-free electricity to 60 families in Sinda, a village in eastern Zambia. In southern Zambia, SuperRich Energies Ltd is harnessing solar energy and the power of the mighty Zambesi River to build the first of a planned 12 hybrid hydroelectric-solar PV systems.

The two solar-sustainable development projects highlight the creative, practical and effective ways African clean energy entrepreneurs and rural residents are tapping into and making use of socioeconomic development funding and other resources being offered by multilateral clean energy development programs such as Power Africa. The shared benefits ultimately extend well beyond delivering electricity.

Muhanya Solar and SuperRich Energies both won $100,000 Power Africa Off-Grid Solar Energy Challenge grants. The 20-kW solar-storage microgrid Muhanya is building in Sinda will power 60 homes, a school and a local business. The initial three hybrid hydroelectric-solar power systems SuperRich Energies is building near Zambesi River villages are the first of 12 that are expected to generate as much as 60-kW of power for local villagers.

Hybrid Hydroelectric-Solar Power for Zambesi River Villages

*Smart Hydro Power

*Smart Hydro Power

The Zambesi is world famous among adventure travelers, wildlife lovers and enthusiasts. SuperRich is using a unique floating hydroelectric turbine that minimizes both cost and environmental impact to construct its novel hybrid renewable microgrids, Power Africa and Off-Grid Energy Challenge program partner US-Africa Development Foundation (USADF) highlights in a Nov. 3 blog post.

A third Zambian Off-Grid Energy Challenge grant recipient, Buntungwa Ventures Ltd is selling small-scale home solar PV systems to more than 400 households in northern Zambia’s Mansa district. Entry-level kits have 15-50 watts of power capacity, which is enough for a light bulb, a fan and to recharge a cell phone.

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Employing a ¨pay as you go¨ business model, Buntungwa’s customers pay a small amount upfront then use mobile e-payments to gradually pay for their systems in full. They own them thereafter.

Solar and Sustainable Development

With the infusion of $100,000 from the Off-Grid Energy Challenge grant, the company intends to expand its operations, train female entrepreneurs as local distributors and sign agreements with mobile network operators, according to USADF.

¨Energy access builds economic growth and activity, and these entrepreneurs are demonstrating that with affordable solar energy, local enterprises can run a business selling energy to low-income, rural households in Zambia,¨ USADF writes.

¨With solar innovations across the country, USADF is supporting Zambian enterprises both big and small to expand the solar market to communities living beyond the grid.¨

Andrew is a well seasoned and traveled freelance reporter and editor, covering the the nexus where new energy technology, markets, ecosystems and political economy intersect and overlap.

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