• West Africa
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Case study 13 February, 2023 Solar PV Other Micro/Mini-grid

Okra & Creeds Energy – 50 Household Mesh-Grid Pilot (Nigeria)

Who, What & Where

  • Okra & Creeds Energy
  • 50 Household Mesh-Grid Pilot
  • Bassa, Nasarawa State, Nigeria

The Company

Okra is a plug & play hardware + software solution that allows smart pay-as-you-go microgrids to be created by connecting existing off the shelf solar panels and batteries. Okra mesh-grid design allows for grids to start small, with more panels and batteries able to be added to the grid to increase capacity as demand increases.

Creeds Energy is one of Nigeria’s leading solar energy services and solutions provider, with a vision to be recognised as one of the top 5 renewable energy companies in West Africa, distinguished by quality, innovation and professionalism. They aim to realise the development of a green economy with low emissions and social inclusivity through the efforts of their knowledge driven team and network of internationally qualified experts.

The Challenge

Previously, Creeds had deployed over 1,000  Standalone Home Solar (SHS) systems totalling over 1MWp across ten locations with a strong focus on small to medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Since their previous installation, Creeds had identified 2 types of users:

  1. High-powered prosumers and local business
  2. Low-powered residential households primary using mobile charging and lights

The usage of the lower-powered households wasn’t enough to commercially justify the installation of an Okra Kit, while the high-power users often had excess capacity that they didn’t always use.

However, when looking at the options for smaller SHS providers on the market, no other technology providers offered the ability to share power from the high-powered to low-powered users.

Renewable Solution

They were willing to try the Okra mesh-grid as a means of enabling power sharing with other households. Furthermore, since the mesh-grid kits allowed for a power output of 1.2kW, it would allow for varied use from residential to productive needs.

Among the higher productive centres energised in the rollout were a Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC), a mosque, a barber shop and a phone-charging shop. These centres previously ran on diesel gen-sets; now they are able to save money and power themselves with 100% renewable energy.

Creeds decided to install Okra’s XL Kits targeting these productive centres and high-powered users and connected them to nearby lower-powered users so that they could share power. By sharing excess power, Creeds was able to get an additional 46 households energised than originally planned – almost double the original target. This created a so-called Hub-and-Spoke topology, in which excess power from the high-powered users could be shared to nearby low-powered ones. Creeds are now working together with Okra to design an optimised iteration that can be replicated throughout subsequent scale-up projects. Over time, as energy demand grows from the new users, they can upgrade their installation and graduate to full Okra Kits, in other words from being a Spoke to a Hub.

Project Financing and Costs

Initially, the project was designed to provide a target output of 460Wh/day with two days of battery autonomy. For 50 households, this came out to be:

  • $32094.64 total, or $642/connection
  • ₦4,000 Naira targeted Average Revenue per User (ARPU)

After Creeds reconfigured the mesh-grid in their preferred Hub-&-Spoke design the delivered CAPEX average cost per connection was reduced to $450/household. One consideration is that the hubs are prioritised for power availability, and the spokes take excess power. Currently, the network is performing at over 99% up-time.

Project Outcome

The project was installed over five days with a team of 20 people, including local residents. At the time of writing this case study, each of the hubs installed in the Bassa community is using:

  • Approximately 400Wh/day on average

Actual ARPU is ₦3,500 Naira; ₦500 less than originally modelled.

This mesh-grid project has enabled small businesses and prosumer households to receive productive power and supply excess power to surrounding lower-power houses. By splitting the costs between a number of users, energy availability is made higher. As the village grows and energy needs increase, the Spoke houses can graduate to becoming Hubs with full Kits and extend the network further.

By these measures, we can see that the pilot project has been a success for the community and for Creeds.

Next Steps

Creeds is now working with the DART Fund by All: On to raise funds for a 1,000-household scale-up, which they are planning to deploy not across 18 other locations where they have active local support staff and connections.

They are looking to scale-up and deploy new projects using a modified Hub-and-Spoke configuration of the mesh-grid in order to reduce cost per connection.

In the community of Bassa, Spoke households have already indicated that they’d like to upgrade to full Kits. During a recent site visit by the Okra team, they were repeatedly asked “When can we get more power?”.