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A review of technical options for solar charging stations in Asia and Africa

Instituto Dom Luiz, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal

Special Issue: Solar Energy for Remote Area Off-grid Electrification

Charging stations are an attractive solution to provide access to electricity to low income populations with low energy consumption in remote and off-grid areas. This paper reviews the state of the art of charging stations, with special focus on the technical options. Forty-five different actors in this field were analysed, based on academic publications, reports, online search and surveys. Results show that most stations are run in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia, are powered by solar energy and although there are many different energy services targeted, the most popular services are charging batteries, mobile phones and lamps. The first charging station was installed in 1992 but most activities happen after 2005. This recent growth has been enabled by the falling cost of photovoltaic modules, learning effect, economies of scale, financial innovation, private sector involvement and worldwide dissemination of mobile phones. While in the first system the only purpose was to charge solar photovoltaic lanterns, the first multi-purpose station appeared in 2008. As expected, the technical challenges are mostly related to the use of batteries not only because they represent the component with shortest lifetime but also because if the battery is not for individual use, social questions arise due to poor definition of rights and duties of the customers. Furthermore, the development of a sustainable business model is also a challenge since this requires technical skills and system monitoring that are not usually available locally. Finally, it is also suggested that the minimum technical quality standards for charging stations should be defined and implemented.
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Keywords charging station; rural electrification; mobile phone charging; solar energy

Citation: R. H. Almeida, M. C. Brito. A review of technical options for solar charging stations in Asia and Africa. AIMS Energy, 2015, 3(3): 428-449. doi: 10.3934/energy.2015.3.428


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