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close this bookBoiling Point No. 45 - Low-cost Electrification for Household Energy (ITDG - ITDG, 2000, 44 p.)
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View the documentTheme editorial: Low-cost electrification; the need for access to energy services
View the documentRural energy development: an integrated approach in Nepal
View the documentGaining ground in community micro-hydro power development in Kenya
View the documentRural electrification in Nepal: Experiences of an integrative social contextual approach
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View the document‘Micro-privatising’ rural power distribution - mass produced community development in Orissa, India
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View the documentManagement of sustainable photovoltaic solar energy in the semi-arid region of the State of Pernambuco, Brazil
View the documentTariffs for rural grid electrification
View the documentFrom candles to compact fluorescents
View the documentConsumer response to mobile solar water heating in the low-income sector, South Africa
View the documentClay Grate Development in Chibau Khera, India
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Management of sustainable photovoltaic solar energy in the semi-arid region of the State of Pernambuco, Brazil

by Heitor S. Costa and Myriam Eck, Nucleus for the Support of Renewable Energy Projects, Federal University of Pernambuco, Av. Acadco Ho Ramos, s/n - CDU, Recife-PR 50.740-530 - Brazil. E-mail:

Gestion de l’rgie solaire photovoltaique (PV) dans une ron semi aride de l’t du Pernambouque au Brl

Ce projet situans le milieu rural du Nord-Est du Brl a identifies ments suivants rendre en considtion. En ce qui concerne l’offre une centrale pour la fourniture de services, la promotion du solaire PV, des compagnies pour la distribution, des programmes de formation, financement des conitiaux, liens entre fourniture d’ctricitt dloppement nomique et social. Du cde la demande: habitudes de consommation des mges ruraux, projections de la demande, un plan rgque dillour drminer les ressources requises et la participation des communaut


In the rural areas of Northeast Brazil, less than 20% of rural properties receive grid electricity (1). The extension of the distribution network to attend this population, estimated at more than 20 million, may not be the best option for satisfying the energy needs of these regions, which are characterized by low population density, difficult access and low electrical energy demand.

The use of solar energy, a natural and abundant resource in this region (2), can influence the socio-economic, commercial and agro-industrial development of rural communities, bringing about the following benefits:

· With lighting it is possible to augment the hours of work and study

· The opportunities for education increase with access to radio and television

· Health conditions improved by:

- having a cleaner source of lighting
- for refrigerating vaccines and medication

· Reducing the isolation of the communities, because with electricity the use of radio-communication systems and telephones is possible,

· Electrical energy can stimulate productive activities such as: pumping water for irrigation; crop processing; conservation of harvests; production of arts and crafts etc.

Figure 1: Opportunities for education increase with more time for study


Another relevant aspect of photovoltaic technology is that it integrates well into the economy of the local community, which can operate, maintain and repair the equipment.

Rural electrification in the state of Pernambuco

Pernambuco has an area of 101,023 square kilometres; its rural population (a quarter of the total) is 1 922 216 inhabitants, which consumes about 374 GWh of electricity.

The rural sector of Pernambuco is characterized by small villages, supported by small family farms that use little technology, and only a few of which are electrified. A development model for this region must seek the following:

· improvement of the quality of life and well-being of the population

· strengthening of organization through associations or cooperatives

· participation of the whole community (children, adolescents, adults, women) in the productive and social process

· creation of a new technological model that allows the community both to own and understand the technology.

· To implement a sustainable programme of rural electrification with photovoltaic systems. This strategy would look at both supply and demand (3).

On the supply side, the strategy should consider:

· the necessity for a central supply of goods and services

· the promotion and propagation of photovoltaic electrification

· the existence of firms for the commercialization and distribution of equipment, systems, replacement components and maintenance services

· the existence of training programs

· programmes for financing the set-up costs (principally for the purchase of equipment)

· the establishment criteria linking electricity supply to programmes of economic and social development at the local and regional levels

· evaluation of solar insolation (the amount of sunlight)

· identification and socio-economic profile of the non-electrified residences and rural communities

Figure 2: Map showing location of Pernambuco.

The demand side should consider, for example:

· the consumption patterns and amount of energy used by rural households

· the demand projections, both at the level of basic needs and at the level of productive needs;

· an integral energy plan with the community, to establish the level of energy resources and technologies needed to ensure an adequate supply

· the participation and inclusion of members of the community in the various stages of the project.

The strategy should lead a programme that includes the objectives and methods needed to satisfy the energy needs of the rural communities effectively (4) both for subsistence and for economic development.

Participative methodology

The Nucleus for the Support of Renewable Energy Projects (NAPER) has developed, during recent years, a participative methodology for implementing projects for residential solar electrification. The equipment is expected to last for at least the life of the photovoltaic generator; estimated at 20 years (5).

Figure 3: Photovoltaic technology is a good option for rural communities


In this process of electrification, the users are expected to understand and service the technology. Since communities do not have technical expertise at the start, they need a technical team that will have an important role in the designing, installation, training and supporting the installations.

The Program of Rural Electrification with Solar Photovoltaic Energy - PERESF, developed and coordinated by NAPER, is a model for other programmes that use solar electricity in rural areas.

To ensure the sustainability of these installations, NAPER has assisted local partners in promotion of the following:

· Selection of non-electrified communities

· Characterization of socio-economic and energy-related factors with the families and the community;

· Promotion and propagation of solar photovoltaic energy at municipal level meetings organized for this purpose;

· Technical and economic specifications of the project;

· Education on photovoltaics for members of the community;

· Participative installation of the equipment;

· Community management of technical assistance and replacement of parts (creation of community fund);

· Support for the project.

Two critical aspects, observed throughout this work, relate to training and technical assistance.

· The training of both the users and the community association have allowed the technical, financial and administrative management of the installations to be done by members of the community.

· Regular preventive maintenance, and in some cases, corrective maintenance, can and should be done by members of the community, who receive the requisite training. Solar electricians receive adequate information and training to provide technical assistance.

Other aspects that deserve mention:

· Monthly repayment should be similar to the costs that will be avoided, for example, for the purchase of kerosene or diesel fuel for illumination, the purchase of batteries and/or recharges for radio and television.

· For most people, electricity is a new factor in their lives and extensive information and education is needed in the rational use of solar electricity.

· If this is not considered, experiences in other countries have demonstrated that incorrect installations, lack of replacement parts, or the omission of simple maintenance operations, can put the residential photovoltaic system out of service within a few months.


Boletim Informativo da CELPE, dezembro (1998)

Costa, H. S. and Salviano, C. J. C. (1996). Levantamento preliminar das reservas anuais das energias renovis: solar e ea para o Estado de Pernambuco In III Encontro para o Desenvolvimento das Energias Renovis, SPaulo.

Costa, H. S. and Silva, G. F. (1996). Ids e conceitos para a sustentabilidade de sistemas fotovoltaicos instalados nas zonas rurais. In III Encontro para o Desenvolvimento das Energias Renovis, SPaulo.

Costa, H. S. (1997). Analysis of use consumption of energy in rural areas of the state of Pernambuco (Brazil); Perspectives of photovoltaic electrification. In 14th European Photovoltic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition, pp. 943-946, vol. 1, Barcelona.

Costa, H. S., Silva G. F. and Eck, M. (1998). Sustentabilidade de sistemas fotovoltaicos residenciais. A experiia do NAPER no semi-do. In Revista Ciia & Engenharia da Universidade Federal de Uberlia, ano 7, no. 2.