ENGS 89/90 Reports

Project Advisor

Alexis Abramson


Solomon Diamond Rafe Steinhauer

Document Type


Publication Date



Significance & Objectives: In 2006, more than six million people living in rural regions of Peru lacked access to electricity, resulting in a lower quality of life, limited educational opportunities, difficult means of communication, and worsened healthcare. Furthermore, the use of kerosene lamps and candles exacerbates respiratory illnesses, and dimmed lights can cause unnecessary eye strain with long term consequences. While the traditional strategy for increasing access to electricity is based around expanding the national electric grid, the complex terrain and remote location of many rural communities in Peru make this infeasible. In conjunction with WindAid, our goal is to design the most reliable and economically sustainable off-grid energy system to provide electricity for 28 households in the agricultural community of El Chorro. Our system should perform reliably throughout the year, be easy to use and maintain, and allow for expansion in the future. Per WindAid’s specification, the total upfront cost of the system must be under $129,000 USD and the annual maintenance cost under $1,100 USD.

Innovation: While all of WindAid's projects thus far have focused on coastal communities that have ample wind speeds, El Chorro is inland where wind is insufficient to power the community. To produce a design that is both sustainable and feasible, we have consulted several organizations that specialize in providing off-grid energy to rural communities within Peru. With over 8 projects of varying systems and power sources, we identified critical success and risk factors. We learned that supplying enough electricity to increase the community's productivity, a strong maintenance plan with compensated and trained workers, and community interest in the system is imperative for the system's longevity. Our solution differs from that of previous solutions because of our two-tier ownership model, which includes the formation of a community board, our design for system expansion by sizing loads for future appliances, and our implementation of plug-and-play systems within Peru. We are proposing two energy systems: a basic system which will supply 7-8 hours of uninterrupted lightbulb use and charge up to two cell phones daily per household, and an enhanced entertainment system which will include additional appliances such as TV and radio. We have created documents for WindAid that contain our proposed system design, load profiles, metering research and recommendation, ownership plans, and financial plans. These documents will be used by WindAid to supplement grant applications for current and future solar projects.

Approach: Our solution was formed based on our research of the community's needs, geographic location, and available resources that would influence design decisions. To determine the availability of renewable sources in the region, we analyzed wind and solar data from NREL, HOMER software, and local weather services, and determined that a solar-only system would be optimal. Next, we determined two different loads (basic energy and entertainment energy) based on predicted energy use patterns and existing literature. To choose between a mini-grid system and an individual system, we first developed a baseline system for each system type by performing a simplified QGIS site-selection analysis, sizing components based on the loads, and developing a distribution system. From there, we determined the initial/recurring costs and the difficulties and risks of implementing such systems. We discussed alternatives to our recommendation of solar individual systems with WindAid and re-surveyed the community to confirm interest and willingness to cooperate. We then used our specifications to find both locally available individual system components and correctly sized plug-and-play systems to perform a full financial analysis. To develop the maintenance, payment, and ownership plans, we worked with El Chorro and anthropologists to research existing solutions, modify them, and reach a conclusion that fits the community’s needs while ensuring system longevity. To test the reliability of our system designs, we used PVGIS to model power availability under worst-case location parameters and compared our recommendations with projects of similar scale.

Impact: Determining a reliable and financially sustainable off-grid energy system for the community of El Chorro will provide the community with an opportunity for long-term quality of life improvement, increased educational opportunities, reduced health risks, and potential for economic growth. With a plan that emphasizes ensuring the practicality of community-based maintenance, the off-grid energy system in El Chorro could serve as a successful example of rural electrification that would encourage similar projects in nearby communities.

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