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A community based approach for sustainable off-grid PV systems in developing countries

Frame, D. and Tembo, K. and Dolan, M. J. and Strachan, S. M. and Ault, G. W. (2011) A community based approach for sustainable off-grid PV systems in developing countries. In: 2011 IEEE power and energy society general meeting. IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting PESGM . IEEE, New York. ISBN 9781457710018

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The energy requirements of developing countries underpin progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Rural electrification is acknowledged as key to providing a source of reliable, affordable and sustainable energy. Many planners and decision makers agree that the off-grid PV system has the potential to become a valued and straightforward source of electricity for remote rural communities. However, there are several challenges that need to be addressed to realize the potential of PV as a sustainable solution. These challenges are illustrated and highlighted by many reported cases of poor sustainability/longevity of PV installation in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper reviews the sustainability of off-grid renewable energy deployments in sub-Saharan Africa along with recent attempts to define sustainable energy frameworks. The specific case of off-grid PV systems for improved educational and health facilities are considered and a community based approach for improved sustainability is proposed. Case studies illustrating practical implementation of this approach in Gambia and Malawi are described.