Solar PV systems in Himalayan villages: Problems and possible solutions
Zahnd, A. and Mckay, K. (2007) Solar PV systems in Himalayan villages: Problems and possible solutions. In: Solar07 45th ANZSES Annual Conference, 2 - 6 October, Alice Springs, Australia
Over the last decade Nepal has experienced a steady growth in solar photovoltaic (PV) system installations in remote mountainous communities. The reason for this is the growing understanding that grid connected infrastructure will never be feasible for these inaccessible parts of the country. Government subsidy programs, funded by foreign governments and INGOs, have caused a mushrooming of solar PV companies in the country’s capital, Kathmandu. However, while the development of a renewable energy industry is to be welcomed, the standard of the majority of the solar PV systems installed is questionable from a sustainability point of view. The designers, manufacturers and policy makers’ view of rural village electrification through solar PV systems is driven and biased by an urban, academic and business oriented perspective. Their perception does not take account of the end users’ local context and needs. Likewise the end users lack awareness and education about the use of renewable energy systems, which results in inappropriate and unrealistic expectations. These two mismatched worldviews threaten the long term relevance of the local renewable energy industry and the improvement in living standards of these remote mountain communities. The major problems fall into two categories, technical and non-technical. This paper explores the range of these problems and suggests some possible remedies. Through the examples of installed solar PV system projects these remedies are reflected in practice in one of the most remote and impoverished areas of Nepal. The case studies are from three villages, in each of which a different solar PV system approach has been followed, according to differing geographical and cultural conditions. Each village has one system-specific data monitoring system, recording data for detailed, long-term understanding of the solar PV system's performance and interaction with the users. This paper reflects on monitoring results and the practical experience gained over 10 years of installing solar PV systems. It provides recommendations for improved and context related solar PV village system projects.
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