Over 1 billion people in the world still do not have access to power. To meet this need, a variety of solar systems have been made available on the market. They typically feature some or all of the following:
Some combination of these features may fulfill the current needs of a customer, but what happens when the customer’s’ electricity needs grow? Say the customer saves up enough money to purchase appliances or devices beyond a light or cell phone? What if the customer wants to purchase and power a refrigerator for her restaurant--or an irrigation for her maize growing farm?
Currently, these customers’ only option is to purchase an entire additional solar system to accommodate their increased needs. But, as their needs continue to increase from the initial standard 10W solar system towards the 6,720W of the average American home,1 they will be forced to participate in this inefficient process countless times. As such, for the global energy poor, their energy systems can inadvertently impede future economic growth, rather than catalyze it as energy access was meant to do.
Our team is working to address this situation by building a system that can grow as customers’ energy needs grow. Essentially, we are designing a solar energy system that can handle a wide range of loads. A customer on our system--instead of having to buy a whole new system with the purchase of a new appliance--could simply buy more solar modules and batteries and plug directly into the system they already have.
And, in the process, we are trying something fundamentally new. What if we could design a system that was so scalable that instead of just accommodating a single household’s loads, the system could be scaled up enough to power neighboring households--and perhaps, even an entire community? These are the types of questions we are exploring at Voya Sol as we build the modular components and metering systems to make this type of solution possible. And in so doing, we hope to test our biggest question yet: Is it possible to build a complete bottom-up electricity grid? We plan to find out.
1. Solar Power Rocks. How Many Solar Panels do You Need to Power Your Home? https://www.solarpowerrocks.com/square-feet-solar-roof/. Accessed 4/8/2019