TECHNICAL AND ECONOMIC FEASIBILITY ASSESSMENT FOR A SOLAR PV MINI‐GRID (CASE STUDY OF MATEKENYA AREA, DOWA DISTRICT, MALAWI)
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Countries are trying to accomplish Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 7 which aims to achieve universal access to energy by 2030. However, electricity access in Africa is at 44%  which is very low as compared to other regions. Malawi is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa which have very low electrification rate. Currently, the rate is at 18%  which is even less than the average electrification rate for Africa. Development of mini-grid systems is one of the potential solutions that can help to improve electricity access rate since most of the population lives in rural areas. The main objective of this work was to conduct technical and economic feasibility assessments for Matekenya village, one of the rural community areas in Malawi which is far from the national grid. The load assessment was conducted by administering a questionnaire developed using Kobo toolbox and data collection was done using an android app called Kobo collect. The data collected was used to establish the area’s load profile which was fed into HOMER on the electric load section. The solar resource used in this work was taken from NASA using the area’s GPS coordinates, and the average horizontal solar irradiation was 5.22 kWh/m2/day. The quotations of various system components such as solar panels, batteries and converters were requested and used as HOMER inputs. The discount rate used for this paper is 12% and expected inflation rate was 9.1%. Simulations were made in two categories, one without sensitivity cases and another with sensitivity cases. The on with sensitivity cases had the following results. The net present cost of the system (NPC) was found to be $21170640. The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) was found to be $0.1334. The operating cost was $380215.40. The initial capital cost was $14290444.84. The major contributor to the system cost was the storage system followed by solar panels and the lowest cost is for converter system. Optimization results with sensitivity analysis showed that The NPC was $11744020, Levelized COE was $0.074, and the operating cost was $213036. The system requires initial capital cost was $7890000. Based on the Malawi feed-in tariff policy, the feed-in tariff for solar PV energy into the grid is $0.10/ kWh which means that the LCOE for optimization results without sensitivity cases is higher than the feed-in tariff. Despite having the LCOE higher than the feed-in tariff, the average electricity rate for Malawi is $0.13/kWh. the LCOE for optimization results with sensitivity cases was lower than the fee-in tariff. this makes the system cost-competitive for implementation if other system parameters remain constant. Based on results it showed that the system is technically and economically feasible to use solar PV to supply electricity to Matekenya village. In addition, the village has high potential for production use of electricity and the willingness to be connected is also high.