Data from up to around 22,500 smart meters provides one of the most advanced analyses of rural microgrid use to date.
The data revealed by smart meter developer SparkMeter, which specializes in microgrids for emerging markets such as Cuba, Nigeria and India, shows that the microgrid setups tend to deliver only small amounts of power and make only small amounts of money.
While SparkMeter’s product portfolio contains meters of up to 200 amps, the company has found the maximum load per user is usually capped at a low level in most rural settings.
Peak loads, meanwhile, are usually much less than the maximum allowance. Most customers draw less than 500 watts of power.
Since most SparkMeter-equipped rural microgrids have fewer than 200 users, this means the peak load each microgrid must support is also correspondingly small, around 2 kilowatts or less.
Similarly, over the course of a month the average consumption per user is only around 2 kilowatt-hours.
Payments are small, too, with customers rarely paying more than a dollar at a time.
This is an important factor to bear in mind when planning business models to support the rollout of rural microgrids, said Arthur Jacquiau-Chamski, SparkMeter’s vice president of product management, at this month’s Microgrid Global lnnovation Forum in Barcelona, Spain.
Yet while payments are small, they are also made frequently, the data shows. Most users pay for electricity at least twice a month, with payment peaks coming at the beginning and the end of every 30-day period.
The data, culled from up to 90 percent of SparkMeter’s 25,000 meter deployments in 17 countries, also shows there are four major load profiles in the rural microgrid world.
Perhaps the most demanding profile, which SparkMeter has dubbed "daytime baseload," is found in 31 percent of sites and accounts for 39 percent of energy consumption. It is characterized by steady daytime usage and an evening peak.
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