Nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives has announced a partnership with the University of California, Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) to integrate research into GRID projects providing solar power to communities around the world that lack access to electricity.
RAEL researchers will work with GRID staff and partners to study off-grid solar projects by the nonprofit in Nicaragua, Nepal, and tribal communities in the U.S. The partners say the research will evaluate project models and outcomes to further inform energy access practices.
RAEL is part of UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group and was founded by Professor Dan Kammen with a mission to design and implement environmentally sustainable development in culturally and socially appropriate ways. The GRID-RAEL partnership builds on more than four years of informal collaboration with UC Berkeley students interested in renewable energy.
“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,” says Kammen. “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.”
GRID says it has worked with more than 30 Native American tribes to install solar systems serving over 425 tribal member families to date. Through its international program, the nonprofit has installed more than 70 solar PV systems in Nicaragua. Furthermore, the installer notes it is also developing a 16 kW 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.
Photo courtesy of GRID Alternatives