In coming years, new technologies will improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of mini-grids. Emerging innovations in generation, storage and end-use equipment will increase efficiency, decrease costs and provide better energy services to end users.

Technologies for mini-grids are improving rapidly. From year to year, mini-grids have benefitted from decreases in the price of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules. Extensive cell-phone infrastructure has enabled pay-as-you-go metering and new business models, as well as smart grids that include remote, internet-based, real-time monitoring and the ability to dispatch loads .

New and emerging battery technologies can store more electricity and last for many more cycles than the prevalent lead-acid batteries , at a lower cost per cycle. These new batteries perform better in hot weather and can survive deep discharge .

High-efficiency, end-use products have enabled communities to get the services they need from smaller mini-grids with less storage . Companies are developing new, more efficient equipment such as appliances (lighting, TV, fans, and refrigerators) and agricultural processing machinery.

This module describes mini-grid technology innovations in various stages of development in 2017, from those proven in labs but not yet commercialized to those already commercially viable but not yet widely used. Together, these technologies have the potential to lower costs and improve mini-grid performance.

What are the key advances in mini-grid generation technologies?

Advances include lower-cost solar PV cells, new materials for PV cells, airborne wind turbines, diesel generators that support intermittent renewable energy, and improved fuel cells. Read more »

What are the key advances in mini-grid energy storage?

Promising new storage technologies include lithium-ion batteries, metal-air and flow batteries and flywheel storage. Read more »

What are the key advances in mini-grid transmission and distribution?

Current technologies are proven and effective but incremental improvements are decreasing costs, improving quality and increasing end-use efficiency. Read more »

What are the key advances in mini-grid end-use technologies?

High-efficiency appliances, lights and other devices allow off-grid communities to install smaller, less expensive mini-grids or increase their productive uses of energy. Read more »