This case study examines the mutually beneficial relationship between micro-grids and agricultural production, highlighting how the stimulation of productive agricultural electricity loads can increase micro-utility revenue and create a stronger financial argument for the deployment of micro-grids into unelectrified rural areas. It draws on lessons learned from Powering Agriculture innovators developing micro-grids around the world in addition to literature focusing on micro-grids’ use of productive power.
Agricultural loads consume energy at every point between the field and the dinner plate to refine, move, or preserve the agricultural products farmers produce. That energy can take the form of chemical energy in fertilizer, heat in a drier, diesel consumed by a tractor, or electricity in a walk-in freezer. These inputs can improve farmers’ livelihoods by increasing production, reducing post-harvest loss, allowing farmers to sell their products when and where prices are higher, and adding value to their crops. At the same time, agricultural applications often pose specific challenges to the design and implementation of electric power systems.
Despite the synergies between micro-grids and agricultural loads, micro-grid developers are in the initial stages of testing out and scaling up deployment of productive use appliances. There are a number of challenges they must consistently overcome for the opportunities in this space to be fully realized. This case study lists many of those challenges and recommendations that they and donors can implement to make their lives easier.