Microgrids energize towns
EarthSpark's microgrids are community sized electricity systems that deliver affordable, reliable, 24/7 electricity to homes and businesses in towns that have never before had any (or any reliable) electricity service.
Community-size electricity grids powered by the sun and managed with smartgrid technology, “solar powered, smart grids”, can fundamentally change today’s energy systems. These small, clean grids are more resilient and cheaper and faster to build than the ‘big grid’ infrastructure that currently delivers most of the world’s power.
EarthSpark goes beyond kilowatt-hours. Deep community involvement, ‘Feminist Electrification’, local business support, demand-side management programs, and local governance all invite people to be full, equal, and active participants in their power systems.
EarthSpark’s integrated approach to clean, smart, participatory microgrids prioritizes the community nature of power systems. As local energy becomes more relevant around the world, this participatory multi-solving will be essential everywhere.
EarthSpark's "proving what is possible" and "de-risking by doing" proactively overcome barriers with innovation, research, and deep participatory engagement with communities - all of which enhance the sustainability and impact of energy access microgrids.
One of the first customers connected in Tiburon turns on the light in her shop.
Les Anglais, Haiti
Working in Haiti since 2008, EarthSpark began by partnering with organizations in the small town of Les Anglais to develop a supply chain for small household-scale solar lights that could displace kerosene lamps and efficient cookstoves that could reduce charcoal consumption both delivering better energy services at a lower overall cost. While these kinds of small stand-alone systems were and remain important, everyone aspires to have higher levels of electricity. Even in the first conversations, community microgrids were discussed as an aspirational future model. Microgrids can deliver more power and can cost-effectively energize commercial and small industrial processes to not only save customers money otherwise spent on kerosene, candles and diesel but to also unlock new economic opportunities and build local resiliency.
In 2012, EarthSpark turned on a first-of-its-kind privately operated pre-pay microgrid in Les Anglais, a small town that had never before had grid electricity. The initial grid served just 14 and then 54 customers. In 2015, EarthSpark expanded the grid to 430 connections, directly serving over 2000 people with 24-hour electricity powered primarily by solar energy and battery storage, cutting customers’ energy costs by up to 80% over previous energy sources.
Want the details? Click here for the current Les Anglais grid factsheet.
In 2019, EarthSpark launched its second solar microgrid in Tiburon, a small fishing town in Haiti's southern peninsula. The system was the first to receive regulatory approval from Haiti's newly launched energy regulator.
The grid now has nearly 400 connections, directly serving about 2000 people. So far, Tiburon customers have shown higher per capita consumption and higher per capita transactions across all tariff levels compared to the Les Anglais system. Over the next few years, the microgrid is expected to serve over 500 households and businesses.
Want the details? Click here for the current Tiburon grid factsheet.
To ScalE-up Service from 2 to 24 towns, EarthSpark Launches Participant Power
After more than 10 years of advancing microgrids in Haiti, EarthSpark has launched Participant Power, a microgrid development company, to accelerate service expansion. The company, owned by EarthSpark and other social impact investors, allows EarthSpark to invite different kinds of funders to support the scale-up of solar-powered microgrids in Haiti and elsewhere.
So far, a family foundation has committed long-term impact equity and the Green Climate Fund has committed grant and long term concessionary debt to a blended finance model intended to help EarthSpark spring from 2 to 24 community energy systems in Haiti in the next 5 years. Combined with EarthSpark's existing grids, the new grids will directly serve over 80,000 people with clean, reliable, affordable electricity and unlock opportunity for people living in and around those rural towns.
The Haitian Government has granted provisional approval to bids submitted to the government's license process by the EarthSpark-Participant Power-Enèji Pwòp team for an additional 22 microgrids. We are hoping that construction of the first of the new grids can happen early in 2023.
Scaling Sustainable Energy for All:
Building infrastructure from scratch – where no incumbent exists – means it is possible to leapfrog directly to today’s best technologies and business models, but best practices in smart grid, tariff structures, and grid resiliency have not yet been clearly defined for the ‘energy access’ markets. Enter EarthSpark. When no low-cost, high-functionality smart meters existed on the market for EarthSpark’s inaugural grid in 2012, EarthSpark developed prototype smart meters to meet its needs. In 2013, EarthSpark spun off the smart metering company SparkMeter, Inc., which is now enabling grid operators to increase energy access and improve operations in 25 countries. EarthSpark drives practical innovation to meet the needs of the rural poor, and EarthSpark is now developing a scalable model for microgrid development and operation. Bundling technical innovation, community engagement, diverse partnerships, and novel financing, EarthSpark is building project-based change and ‘de-risking by doing.’
Integrated Electrification: Empowering People with more than Watt-Hours
Electricity in and of itself is useless. It’s what one does with each watt-hour that is truly transformative. With highly efficient appliances, productive uses of electricity, and thoughtful demand management, not only can customers make the most of newly available electricity, operators can maximize customer value and grid revenue. EarthSpark works with communities and customers to deeply assess energy service needs and opportunities. EarthSpark also takes a ‘feminist electrification’ approach to infrastructure planning, ensuring that women’s voices and roles are important throughout the planning and implementation of the electrification process.
Microgrids, Community Resilience + Sustainable Energy for All
To meet the Sustainable Energy for All goals established by the United Nations, 40% of all new connections will come from microgrids. Around the world, local governments are looking to microgrids to harden critical infrastructure and improve resiliency. Innovation is portable, and in building a model for clean, smart, transformative community infrastructure, EarthSpark is pursuing deep solutions to both energy access and climate change. Join us!