Category Photovoltaics for Rural Development in Latin America: A Quarter Century of Lessons Learned

PV water pumping

PV water pumping is a small-scale application of great importance all over the world, has particular impact in rural communities where electrical network has not been extended. These systems are characterized by high reliability, long life and minimum maintenance, which translate to lower long-term cost when compared with other alternatives. Also does not require an operator, and its operation does not pollute the environment and produces no noise. Another advantage is that the systems are modular, so it can be adapted to meet the specific needs of the user at any time.


First decisions 1: Distance to low voltage 2: Daily demand x 3: Daily insolation 4: Recommendation

taken by designer electrical network Total dynamic head (without considering other factors)


Fig. 3...

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Field surveys

The intent of the Chihuahua pilot project was to demonstrate that simple PV lighting systems could be designed to provide reliable, essentially maintenance free electrical service for many years with full cost recovery. After nearly five years of operation, random field surveys were conducted of 35 homes in Moris and found that over 90% of the Solisto PV home lighting systems have performed exceptionally well without any significant problems (Foster et al, 2004).

Performance was assessed through electrical measurements, visual inspection, and an end – user survey to determine user satisfaction. The 2003 survey results showed that over 80% of the installed systems were operating correctly and as designed, 11% were in fair condition (e. g...

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System evaluation

From 1999 until 2008, the performance of a Solisto PV lighting system was continuously monitored at NMSU’s Southwest Region Solar Experiment Station in Las Cruces, New Mexico, simulating usage of about 171 Wh/day. Climate and irradiance conditions in Las Cruces are very similar to those found in Moris, Chihuahua (less than 500 km distant), and the system is housed in an unconditioned house that performs similarly to unconditioned homes in Moris (i. e., no HVAC system). The long-term monitoring provides a reasonable base case with which to compare fielded systems.

Measured parameters include solar irradiance (at 32° tilt), ambient temperature, battery temperature, PV current, battery voltage, and load current. Each parameter is sampled every ten seconds and averaged each hour and recorded...

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System design

NMSU worked closely with the Chihuahua Renewable Energy Working Group (GTER) to implement a quality PV lighting system project. NMSU assisted GTER with the development of a technical specification for the PV lighting systems that would comply with the Mexican electrical code (NOM-Norma Oficial Mexicana) (Wiles, 1996). The NOM essentially mirrors the US National Electrical Code (NEC); Article 690 of both directly applies to PV installations. The NOM had not previously been applied in Mexico for the thousands of PV lighting systems installed. Besides meeting legal guidelines, NOM compliance can extend system reliability, lifetime, and safety.

The Solisto PV systems were designed by Sunwize Technologies to meet NMSU specifications based on the Mexican electric code (Wiles, 1996)...

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Financing program for household lighting

The State of Chihuahua, working with MREP, designed the first Mexico’s first ever pilot renewable energy financing program. The objective was to promote the use of renewable energy technologies in rural areas that lie outside the national electric grid. The financing activities were conducted by the State Trust Fund for Productive Activities in Chihuahua (FIDEAPECH – Fideicomiso Estatal para el Fomento de las Actividades Productivas en el Estado de Chihuahua) (Ojinaga et al., 2000). This state trust fund provides direct loans and guarantees, primarily based on direct lending (e. g., to farmers for tractors). For this project, FIDEAPECH used US$99,000 of MREP seed funding from USAID to support renewable energy projects...

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PV home systems in Mexico

Rural Latin households pay anywhere from US$5-25/month for dry cell batteries and kerosene lighting, the main energy source PV competes against. Rural users mostly use electricity for lighting and entertainment with radio and TV. In 1998, a market study was undertaken in rural Chihuahua by NMSU under the MREP to determine what the average consumer willingness to pay (WTP) was for PV lighting systems (Foster et al., 1998a). Chihuahuans were found to be favorably disposed to the concept of solar PV systems as an alternative source of energy for their homes...

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Photovoltaics for Rural Development in Latin America: A Quarter Century of Lessons Learned

Alma Cota1 and Robert Foster2

1Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez 2New Mexico State University 1Mexico

United States of America

1. Introduction

Over the past quarter century, Latin America has widely adopted photovoltaic (PV) technologies for social and economic development. Latin America is the world’s birthplace for small rural solar electric systems used for residential power, refrigeration, distance education and hybrid systems. The use of PV systems has increased dramatically from an initial concept pioneered by a few visionaries to many thriving businesses throughout the rural regions today.

PV is a viable alternative to conventional large-scale rural grid systems...

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