How Swarm Electrification Can Draw in Swarms of People

While Bangladesh has a reputation of one of the fastest growing economies, one of the sectors where the progress is stagnant is the renewable energy industry.

Despite 5 million solar home systems previously running in Bangladesh, it was still unresolved on how to make energy affordable to the people who were at the lowest echelon of the society, and while most people grappled with such an issue, SOLshare came up with a revolutionary new approach.

Leveraging the existing solar home systems, SOLshare has developed an IoT-driven platform which enables SHS (solar home system) users to either sell or utilize the generous amount of excess power that is generated every day to people who can’t afford electricity or solar home systems (non-SHS users) for that matter. With 30% of the generated solar power going to waste every day, non-SHS users now have a new avenue to finally have reliable and most importantly, affordable supply of electricity through our trading platform. While, on the other hand, the SHS-users have now an extra medium of earning an income that, too, directly from the Sun. Through SOLshare’s peer-to-peer solar energy trading platform, solar home system (SHS) users connect to a local LVDC microgrid to trade electricity with their peers and by that create a local electricity trading network which can grow over time and one day perform the task of last-mile smart energy distribution infrastructure when connected to them.

With the SHS market having already absorbed 750 million USD by donors and the people of Bangladesh, we saw great potential in building a microgrid here since each equipment already had a 50Ah battery, and therefore, the country’s utility got access to 3000MWh of storage capacity, which enables great opportunities for peak shaving, reducing the need for peak demand power plants. But with any strong idea, comes plenitude, multiple-tiered, hard-ingrained issues. It is said the biggest deterrent that prevents off-grid energy access enterprises from scaling up is the word “off-grid” itself. Since people have been dependent on the national grid since long, reliable at all or not, it takes extreme efforts to convince rural people of a new technology, that can be, to their disbelief, reliable, and most importantly, affordable. Even though “off-grid” technologies, such as ours with a bottom-up approach, can drastically increase the standard of living in rural areas, there is a legacy bias towards solely centralized energy generation technologies in general, but yet, when it comes to on-grid vs. off-grid, rather than strictly supporting one side of this debate, our research leads us to instead consider the convergence of these approaches as the next logical transformational process in the energy sector. This is why SOLshare applies swarm electrification in its approach, where microgrids built from the bottom-up can overcome path dependencies and lead to a more flexible, resilient and ultimately more sustainable infrastructure by eventually connecting to the national grid.

A world completely run by solar technologies may seem a far-fetched idea now, but why else should anyone work harder? One people at a time, we now slowly see swarms of people trying and accepting solar technologies at their households and business premises. While solar technologies promise sustainability, peer-to-peer micro-grid trading platforms ensure reliability and affordability. Together, one day, we can make history. Or we already are?