Global Himalayan Expedition Wins Top Microgrid Greater Good Award

Nov. 17, 2020
Microgrid Knowledge today named Global Himalyan Expedition (GHE) as the top prize winner in its 2020 Microgrid Greater Good award competition. The award was announced at the opening of Microgrid 2020 Global, a three-day event that has attracted thousands of participants worldwide.

Microgrid Knowledge today named Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) as the top prize winner in its 2020 Microgrid Greater Good Award competition. 

The India-based company won the award for a solar microgrid in Batambis, a remote Himalayan village almost 14,000 feet above sea level, with no roads or electric grid and cut off from the world by snowfall for six months out of the year.

Elisa Wood, editor-in-chief of Microgrid Knowledge, announced the winners at the opening of Microgrid 2020 Global, the publication’s annual conference, which attracted several thousand virtual participants worldwide. The publication created the award in 2019 to demonstrate the range of humanitarian benefits microgrids offer.

“GHE is truly worthy of the Highest Recognition for a Microgrid Serving the Greater Good. It has electrified 131 villages, trekking into the far reaches of the Himalayas, to places not even found on Google maps, to install microgrids and bring electric power to villages for the first time,” Wood said

“Wherever the road ends, that’s where GHE begins working,” said Paras Loomba, GHE founder, who spoke this morning at Microgrid 2020 Global. “People from all over the globe come and join me to electrify the villages.”

Engaging changemakers

The expedition has taken 1,300 travelers — what Loomba calls “changemakers” — from 65 countries on its expeditions to help electrify the sites.

Once they are electrified, the villages — set in some of the most picturesque places on earth — create homestay businesses so that travelers can visit and the villagers can earn revenue to help them operate and maintain their microgrid.

“For the Highest Recognition or Grand Prize — it has to be for the project completed at highest elevation! The Global Himalayan Expedition. Also a lovely example of microgrids spawning entrepreneurship and community stability,” said Julie Jones,  operations manager at Generation 180, which recently published the Brighter Future Report 2020, a study on solar in schools.

Jones was one of seven judges to evaluate the entries. Others were: Mahesh Bhave: professor,  NTPC School of Business, New Delhi area and founder, BHAVE Power Systems; Patrice Calise, associate copy editor, S&P Global Market Intelligence; Housley Carr, writer and analyst at RBN Energy, a Houston-based energy consulting firm; Peter Kelly-Detwiler, principal, NorthBridge Energy Partners: Mary Powers, special correspondent, Engineering News-Record and Kate Ringness, co-founder and managing director, SmartBlock

In addition to the highest honor, winners were chosen in two top place categories: Greater Good Award for a Grid-Connected Microgrid; and Greater Good Award for a Remote Microgrid.

The Greater Good Award for a Grid-Connected Microgrid went to Maycroft Apartments Microgrid, Washington DC, a project of Jubilee Housing, SimpliPhi Power, New Partners, Amidus, Pepco and Clean Energy Group’s Resilient Power Project.

Jubilee Housing’s Maycroft Apartments became the first affordable housing development in the District of Columbia to fully power a resiliency center through solar PV paired with a battery storage system.  The microgrid provides backup power to critical loads for up to three days, allowing the operation of refrigeration for food and medication, exhaust and floor fans, lighting, outlets for charging cell phones and medical equipment, a microwave for food preparation, and a television. Solar+storage also powers lighting for stairwells and hallways throughout the complex.

Easing energy costs

The Maycroft project is part of Solar for All, a district program that allows residents to reap financial benefits from solar. Using an innovative model to pass community solar savings directly to low-income households, the program allows participants to save on average $40 per household every month on utility bills.

The Maycroft Apartments were developed by Jubilee Housing. The Pepco Foundation provided a grant. New Partners, Amidus and Pepco, the local utility, designed the solar+storage system with technical assistance funding support from Clean Energy Group’s Resilient Power Project. 

The system includes 16 Simpliphi PHI 3.5 lithium ferro phosphate batteries, totaling 46 kW/56 kWh, connected to a 62.4-kW rooftop solar array. The microgrid can automatically disconnect from the grid during a utility outage and enable power from the solar panels and batteries to continue providing resilient and reliable energy to critical loads. 

The batteries and related equipment cost $90,000 and the installation cost $40,000. Development of the community rooftop solar array was already underway and cost $197,000. The Pepco Foundation provided $65,000 in funding to support the battery installation.

Clean water via a microgrid

The Microgrid Greater Good Award for a remote system went to Kigbe Solar Minigrid in  Nigeria, a project of Havenhill Synergy, United States African Development Foundation, Power Africa Initiative, Diamond Development Initiative, African Development Bank Mini-Grid HelpDesk and Inensus GmbH.

The Kigbe project serves about 2,000 people living in the Kigbe, an off-grid rural community in Nigeria. Havenhill leverages the microgrid to provide free clean pipe borne water to the residents of this community. The initiative was borne out of a cholera outbreak (caused by contaminated water) within the community a few years before the microgrid was constructed. The microgrid now powers a borehole that the entire community relies on for clean water.

The microgrid has helped boost Kigbe’s economic activities. Over the last two years, the community has witnessed the creation of over eight businesses relying on the grid, among them small-scale grocery stores, hair salons, soccer-viewing centers.

The microgrid has also promoted gender equity by providing seed capital to the first female entrepreneur within the community. The seed capital helped her establish a grocery store and the acquisition of a refrigerator to sell cold drinks during summer.

As part of the project, Havenhill provided microloans to customers toward the purchase of appliances. The community has witnessed a slight growth in population as residents of neighboring rural communities have migrated to enjoy the microgrid benefits.

 “This project exemplifies the many things a microgrid can bring to a community beyond providing access to electricity: jobs, female empowerment, education, improved quality of life, and clean water,” said Ringness of SmartBlock, one of the judges.

Microgrid Greater Good  Award Runners up

In addition to awarding the three first place winners, Microgrid Knowledge selected three runners up, which were: 

Several of the judges said all of the finalists were strong contenders. 

“Great entrants –– any could be a winner, said Carr from RBN.

“They all made me think about the interconnectedness of electrification with so many other aspects of well-being for both humanity and the planet. It was difficult to choose between these stories,” added Calise from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

About Microgrid 2020 Global

A confluence of events is heightening interest in microgrids just in time for Microgrid 2020 Global, November 17-19, a virtual conference attracting thousands of participants worldwide this week to the Microgrid Knowledge platform .

Content rich and highly interactive, the conference offers an opportunity for participants to learn, discuss, interact and network in an innovative virtual forum, designed by the world’s largest news site devoted to microgrids.

The event is being offered free of charge to those who registered by November 16. For late registrants, the three-day conference is available on-demand for $99.

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Microgrid Knowledge Editors

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