Energy for rural communities
fail after less than 100 cycles of discharging to 50% of their capacity.
Where available, deep cycle or traction batteries are a better option as they can be discharged
up to 80% of their rated capacity with life cycles from 1000 to 2000. Batteries specifically
designed for solar systems have been developed. They are delivered dry-charged and the
electrolyte is added once they have been installed. The life cycle range is typically around
1200 at 80% discharge to 3000 at 50% discharge. Sealed maintenance free batteries have a
good life cycle of 800 cycles at 80% discharge but they need to be regularly recharged to
prevent sulphate build-up and are expensive. These batteries are more expensive and less
widely available but are more economical over their lifetime.
As lighting is usually the first use of domestic electricity systems in remote settings it is
important to keep the consumption of lighting units down. Over recent years there has been a
huge improvement in the efficiency of lighting units compared to traditional incandescent
Cooking with electricity offers benefits to health
and the environment, as it can replace fires that fill
houses with smoke and cause many respiratory
illnesses, and reduce the dependency on scarce
resources of wood.
Conventional electric cookers have a very high
energy consumption, but low energy electric
cooking devices have been developed in Nepal by
Development Consulting Services and are now
manufactured commercially. Normal electric
cookers consume about 1Kw per plate, which is far
too high for the majority of renewable energy
schemes. A simple meal for four people would
needs about 1 kilowatt-hour of energy to cook it,
and generally people in a community tend to cook
at about the same time.
In recent years health and environmental issues
have become more prominent. Clean domestic
energy reduces smoke exposure and lessens the
need for fuelwood thus reducing deforestation, land Figure 4: Low-wattage electrical
degradation and the consequent impact on climate cookers provide a clean environment
and improve the load factor of micro-
hydro schemes in Nepal. Photo credit
Successful implementation of renewable energy
Practical Action / Caroline Penn
schemes in rural areas is dependent upon a
complex mixture of technological innovation
combined with economical and institutional developments.