NEWS GRID Alternatives and RAEL partner on research to improve off-​​grid electricity access in remote areas

OAKLAND, CA: JULY 27, 2016: GRID Alter­na­tives has announced a part­ner­ship with the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berkeley’s Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL), to inte­grate research into GRID Alter­na­tives projects pro­vid­ing solar power to com­mu­ni­ties around the world that lack access to electricity.

RAEL researchers will work with GRID Alter­na­tives staff and part­ners to study off-​​grid solar projects by GRID Alter­na­tives in Nicaragua, Nepal, and tribal com­mu­ni­ties in the United States. The research will eval­u­ate project mod­els and out­comes to inform energy access prac­tices world­wide. 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.

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.

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,” said 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.”

The part­ner­ship will pro­vide direct and indi­rect ben­e­fits through GRID Alter­na­tives’ energy access projects and help expand off-​​grid solar inter­na­tion­ally. RAEL researchers will par­tic­i­pate in and have access to ben­e­fi­cia­ries of GRID Alter­na­tives’ projects, and RAEL will work with GRID to secure fund­ing for research projects as appro­pri­ate. RAEL will con­duct sys­tem mod­el­ing and design research, tech­ni­cal poten­tial analy­sis, qual­i­ta­tive sur­veys, and impact analy­sis with a focus on social and cul­tural issues.

Dr. Kam­men is a mem­ber of GRID’s National Advi­sory Coun­cil, was recently appointed U.S. Sci­ence Envoy for the U.S. State Depart­ment, and has been a lead­ing voice in renew­able energy deploy­ment globally.

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,” said Dr. 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 Alter­na­tives is an inter­na­tional non­profit solar installer bring­ing clean energy tech­nol­ogy and job train­ing to low-​​income fam­i­lies and under­served com­mu­ni­ties through a net­work of com­mu­nity part­ners, vol­un­teers, and phil­an­thropic sup­port­ers. GRID has installed more than 7,000 rooftop solar sys­tems with a com­bined installed capac­ity of nearly 25MW, sav­ing $192 mil­lion in life­time elec­tric­ity costs, pre­vent­ing more than 537,000 tons of green­house gas emis­sions, and pro­vid­ing more than 27,000 peo­ple with solar train­ing. For more infor­ma­tion, visit www​.gri​dal​ter​na​tives​.org


Based at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, since 1999, RAEL has focused on sys­tems approaches to fos­ter­ing sus­tain­able devel­op­ment at the house­hold, com­mu­nity, and national lev­els. With a mix­ture of stu­dents, post-​​doctoral fel­lows and vis­it­ing schol­ars and prac­ti­tion­ers, RAEL is cur­rently active in the Balkans, China, Cen­tral Amer­ica, East Africa, South­east Asia, across North Amer­ica in the design of tech­ni­cal and ana­lytic approaches to clean energy sys­tems. For more infor­ma­tion see rael​.berke​ley​.edu.

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