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GRID Alternatives & UC–Berkeley RAEL Partnering For Community Solar Energy Access Research

The solar energy project developer GRID Alternatives will be partnering with the University of California, Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) in order to investigate the approaches used in off-grid solar energy projects installed by the former.

To be more specific, RAEL researchers will be working with GRID Alternatives to study the effectiveness and approaches used in GRID Alternatives projects in Nicaragua and Nepal, as well as tribal communities in the US. Those involved will be evaluating project models and outcomes in order to better inform industry/project practices.

For some background here, RAEL is a part of UC–Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, and was founded by Professor Dan Kammen with the intent of designing and putting into practice “environmentally sustainable development in culturally and socially appropriate ways.”

“Getting electricity to the 1.2 billion people who still lack access is about more than cutting-edge technologies. It’s about finding solutions that are culturally, socially, and economically appropriate, and are really solving the problem they are intended to solve,” commented Dr Kammen, Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy with parallel appointments in ERG and the Goldman School of Public Policy. “Partnering with organizations like GRID doing this work on the ground is a great opportunity to study what’s working and why, and get that information to the people who can use it.”

The press release provides more, noting that, “Through its inter­na­tional pro­gram, GRID Alter­na­tives has installed 70 solar PV sys­tems in Nicaragua to-date, and con­tin­ues to ensure the sys­tems remain online and pro­vide long-term ben­e­fits to res­i­dents. GRID Alter­na­tives is also devel­op­ing a 16-kilowatt solar-powered micro­grid project in Dhapchung, Nepal to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to the community’s school, 40 fam­i­lies, and sev­eral busi­nesses to aid in earth­quake recov­ery and cre­ate a sus­tain­able economy.”

Importantly, RAEL participants will be working with GRID Alternatives to secure research project funding as necessary. RAEL will also, of course, be conducting “system modeling and design research, technical potential analysis, qualitative surveys, and impact analysis with a focus on social and cultural issues.”

“GRID’s volunteer-based model has long provided a way for people interested in renewable energy work – from industry representatives to academics and the general public – to get hands-on with solar technology and see how it makes a difference for underserved communities,” stated GRID Alternatives co-founder and CEO Erica Mackie. “This partnership will help us go a step further and contribute to a global body of knowledge around how to maximize impact and ensure that projects are sustainable for the long term.”

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