Prepaid Solar Solution to Boost Senegal Agriculture

Published: Jan. 1, 2014

About Powering Agriculture

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development supports the development and deployment of clean energy innovations that increase agriculture productivity and stimulate low carbon economic growth in the agriculture sector of developing countries to help end extreme poverty and extreme hunger.

USAID has announced that the Sustainable Engineering Lab has been awarded a two-year, $1.1M innovation grant to establish three smart solar irrigation pilot projects in the Millennium Village of Potou, a rural area in northern Senegal.

The grant is supported by USAID, the Swedish Government, Duke Energy, and the German Organization for International Cooperation (GIZ) as part of the Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development Initiative.

In Senegal, acquiring water for crops is usually done by hand and can take many hours. On top of that high fuel costs make gasoline pumps impractical and initial investment costs for stand-alone solar to generate power for pumps are too high for small-scale farmers. The Sustainable Engineering Lab’s goal is to reduce the price of energy for smallholder irrigation farmers by introducing solar PV as a reliable and cost-effective energy alternative.

The key innovation is the use of a centralized PV power production center to provide electricity to a network of farmers along individual distribution lines, in the form of a micro-utility that provides energy for pumping and other uses. Customers will access energy using a pre-paid system, similar to that of SharedSolar, ensuring that farmers pay only for what they consume.

Related News & Events: 
Sep. 7, 2016

The Earth Institute at Columbia University just celebrated the first anniversary of Acacia Irrigation, their shared irrigation system in Senegal. Three systems, each serving seven farms, are up and running; all three have seen high usage since installation. Farmers are already seeing the benefits. 

Jun. 7, 2016

The Sustainable Engineering Lab at Columbia University started with a question: Could a single system provide electricity or water to multiple farmers? To find out, they set up a system comprised of three solar photovoltaic arrays to power irrigation pumps in Gabar, Senegal.