Fondation Énergies pour le Monde (Energy for the World Foundation), an organization that promotes clean energy in developing countries, has completed the installation of a concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) system in Ambondro, southern Madagascar. The CPV system was also combined with existing wind turbines in the village, with project partner Sunidarity claiming it is the first decentralized rural electrification operation of its kind in Madagascar.

Sunidarity is an initiative that gives support to projects based on fairness and sustainability. It was founded by semiconductor specialist Soitec, which in 2011 launched a system called Plug&Sun.; This is a modular, mobile, easy-to-install CPV system that is designed to bring electricity to remote, off-the-grid regions.

Concentrating photovoltaics magnify sunlight before it reaches the cells that convert it into electricity. Soitec’s CPV’s technology uses Fresnel lenses that concentrate sunlight 500 times. The company claims its technology achieves a module efficiency of 30 percent, which is roughly twice that of standard silicon PV modules.

The system installed in Madagascar comprises two trackers capable of generating a combined 2.28 kWp (peak power under full solar radiation) for a total of up to 12 kWh per day. Each tracker is made up of 12 CPV modules with a total surface area of 4.2 sq m (13.8 sq ft) and an integrated battery system allows the electricity produced during the day to be stored for later use.

Plug&Sun;'s design ensures sunlight is harvested throughout the day, with continuous energy generation. Soitec adds it has kept the system deliberately simple and practical so it can be easily adapted to places like Ambondro. It only takes a few hours to install, and is compatible with different electrical standards. The goal is to improve the lives of people in such areas by giving them access to income-generating activities without having to rely on fossil fuels.

To add extra reliability, Fondation Énergies pour le Monde has combined the Plug&Sun; trackers with two wind turbines that were installed back in 2010. When the CPV technology was installed, a Soitec technician provided assistance in assembling the CPV systems on site and connecting them to the existing power system, while also training local technical personnel in maintenance and servicing of the technology.

"The installation of a hybrid wind–solar system is a first, important step," says Yves Maigne, director of Fondation Énergies pour le Monde. "Within a year, we will have sufficient feedback to be able to evaluate the system’s operation. That will help us decide on the use of Plug&Sun; for eight other Malagasy villages already identified by our Foundation."

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