Peru recently launched a new program that aims to bring solar power to more than two million of its rural residents who currently lack access to the grid.
The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program has already started its first phase, which installed 1,601 solar panels in 126 communities in Contumaza, a province in the northeastern region of Cajamarca, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.
“This program is aimed at the poorest people, those who lack access to electric lighting and still use oil lamps, spending their own resources to pay for fuels that harm their health,” said Jorge Merino, Peru’s Energy and Mining Minister.
The program will install 12 500 solar photovoltaic systems to be shared among 500 000 households at a cost of about $200 million over the next five years. United Nation’s Development Program, Peru’s ministry of energy and mines, and the Global Environment Facility will supervise the project, according to PV Tech.
The need for electricity is substantial in Peru, especially in rural areas. Nearly half of more than 24 million Peruvians live in poverty, and one-third of the population lacks access to the electric grid.
Currently, most of the rural solar installations are in homes of people with financial means, according to a World Bank report [PDF] from 2010. But for poor communities, the cost of extending the grid to remote, high-altitude regions can be extremely costly, making solar PV and microgrids more appealing.
According to the report, most households that would use a solar PV system now use car batteries or dry cell batteries to run small appliances and candles and kerosene for lighting.
The project hopes to create a network of small business—like those now supplying kerosene— that will sell, maintain, and operate the PV systems, according to a brief for the UNDP.
Residents will still require some sort of storage for the solar power for when the sun isn’t shining. There could also be an opportunity to form community microgrids in remote areas that connect solar panels with other energy sources (which might not always be clean), such as what EarthSpark International has piloted in Haiti.
Peru’s solar program is part of a larger plan to bring regular electricity access to 95 percent of its residents. The country plans to spend about $3 billion on new electricity generation, according to SolarReviews, including one gigawatt of hydropower, 800 megawatts of gas-diesel, and another 300 megawatts of other renewable energy.
Photo: Julia Manzerova/Flickr