Cleantech in the developing world: from solar power to refrigeration
Monday, June 23, 2014
After driving taxis in New York City for 10 years, 58-year-old Julio Francois returned to his hometown of Les Anglais, Haiti to open a mill. He processes corn, rice, sorghum and some coffee for the small and isolated agricultural town on the country’s southwest coast, thanks to a diesel-generated microgrid. Business is good: locals line up out of his door every Wednesday on market day.
But Francois wants to switch to solar power – and he’s not alone. Over the past few years, solar has been increasingly adopted in developing countries such as India, Mali, Nicaragua and Tanzania, where many rural villages without grid access have leapfrogged to solar.
While decentralized energy solutions like solar offer promise for far-flung villages, there are pitfalls on the road to adoption. “Land and energy resources for agriculture will need to be used more efficiently,” says Jeremy Foster, an energy advisor with the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Solutions will need to be low cost and able to get around the high overall upfront costs for renewable energy.”
But while the challenges are steep, so are the rewards: resolving energy and agriculture problems could result in increased farm productivity, less food spoilage, and a better quality of life for farming communities. Not surprisingly, numerous entrepreneurs, business leaders and nonprofits are seeking creative and robust cleantech solutions to the energy and agriculture nexus.