Clean Power

Published on March 10th, 2016 | by Glenn Meyers


Mobisol Testing Delivery Of Solar Home Systems In Off-Grid Areas

March 10th, 2016 by  

Given such market demographics, Mobisol is testing whether drones can provide important benefits for distributing its solar products. It remains to be seen whether such an approach is feasible.

“Transporting goods in remote rural areas of East Africa is expensive, unreliable and time-consuming. That’s why we are currently testing the leap-frogging of infrastructural deficits by piloting over-the-air delivery by solar-powered drones.

“During the pilot phase we will evaluate customer acceptance and analyze technical constraints. In order to address the issues of recharge capabilities and bridging larger distances, we are utilizing the already existing and ever-growing network of our solar home systems in East Africa as recharge hubs.”

mobisol products MobisolSHS_header

Mobisol features rent-to-own product options, where customers pay for the cost of solar panels and household appliances over a three-year period and own their equipment at the end of the term.

Business development manager Thomas Duveau said the cost of solar has declined sufficiently that governments and international agencies should move straight to distributed energy rather than investing in large grid projects.

“Most families just want six or seven lamps, a fridge, a TV, a stereo and a charging station,” he said. “Assuming you could build it, you could never manage to refinance it, simply because the average consumption of electricity is so low.”

Developing the Mobisol market with a drone boost

Mobisol’s systems cost at least $21 a month over 36 months. But Duveau says it’s more useful and eventually allows families to become micro-entrepreneurs, for instance charging phones and laptops for other villagers, and setting up barber shops or small cinemas. “We’re the only company that can claim to substitute the grid,” he said.

The company states its possible drone operation “…is carbon free, powered by the sun; and it creates decentralized income as customers are provided with an additional stream of income by charging the copters with their solar system’s electricity. The project underlines the vast possibilities for Mobisol in the off-grid market and the many opportunities for innovation to create leap-frogs, saving resources – and again improving the lives of our customers while contributing to world-wide climate change mitigation.”

Drones may prove to be an attractive delivery option in some of the vast off-grid areas in Africa lacking in a road delivery system.

This Vimeo video provides a glimpse into Mobisol’s potential market in Tanzania.

Image via Mobisol

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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • Bob_Wallace

    “In sparsely populated countries, such as Mali, grid expansion can cost up $19,000 USD per kilometer”

    $21 x 36 months = $756.

    Grid expansion no longer makes sense in some parts of the world.

    Most of the micro solar systems being sold in other countries are less expensive. About $200 gets buyers the ability to run a couple LEDs and charge a phone. That, IMO, should be the entry level. Get the monthly under $10 for two years. Then people can add on to their system if they want more lights, the ability to run a radio/TV.

    Actually the entry level should be a $8 solar lamp.

  • JamesWimberley

    Drones? Head office brainwave. Name me a village in Rwanda you can’t reach by donkey.

    • Ronald Brakels

      A 400 kilogram horse consumes around 64,000 kilojoules a day. I would expect a 160 kilogram donkey to require at least half that. Working equines typically consume the majority of their food kilojoules in the form of human edible grain. The average Rwandan consumes about 8,500 kilojoules a day. So a working donkey that gets two thirds of its energy from grain would eat enough to feed 2.5 Rwandans.

      Now this pilot may not pan out, but in the long run replacing beasts of burden and petrol powered vehicles with a solar panel and a drone is definitely a good thing. But it certainly doesn’t mean donkey drivers should be passed over currently if they are the most cost effective option.

      • Are Hansen

        And anyway, wouldn’t trained personnel be needed on-site anyway, to set it all up, connect the wires and explaining to their customers how they should handle it. But yeah, it would save a few thousand kilojoules in the form of food, maybe.
        Are the roads/paths good enough for bicycles? Or only walking or donkeys…

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