Nigeria Off-Grid Solar Knowledge Hub - Design Supply Infrastructure

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The technical design of the electricity supply infrastructure is a central aspect for the successful implementation of rural electrification interventions. The WP5 toolbox will, additionally to WP4,  provide a review of technical planning tools (#refer to WP4 - review of technical planning tools#) and address important complementing aspects in light of current policy momentum. The aspects include standards and testing of mini grid and stand-alone-solar (SAS) systems, open source technologies, the localization of the upstream value chain of components as well as end-of-life aspects. Firstly this section will give an overview of challenges off-grid sector entrepreneurs have to face concerning the infrastructure design, followed by guiding principles on the individual topics.


  1. Define the Geographical Scope of the project
  2. Assess available energy resources
  3. Size the system
  4. Select the system configuration
  5. Design the distribution system


The following chapter will focus on the different challenges that off-grid developers encounter during the implementation of their projects.

Lack of standardized data

Each off-grid solar project is tailor-made for specific conditions and environments. Only few companies collect data and if so, it’s mostly under a non-standard way which makes them non comparable and limits usability. An international standard for data could help data systems to act as integrated networks rather than isolated first-access electricity systems[1].

Competition of affiliated and unaffiliated products

Unaffiliated products are often less expensive than affiliated devices and therefore being regarded as more preferable for rural energy-poor households but also have a reputation for poorer quality and durability. Furthermore they tend to be sold through networks of third-party distributors, which leads to the open question of who is responsible for the products after their life-time and for the resulting e-waste. Some affiliated product companies have already been active in implementing solar waste initiatives voluntarily with the help of GOGLA. Unaffiliated devices represent the majority of products sold but are often failing to meet current regulatory quality standards and minimum warranty requirements. On the other side they tend to be easier repaired or upgraded in the informal repair markets on which energy-poor households usually rely on[2].

Limited intervention on the hardware configuration increases solar e-waste

In order to ensure high quality products and to preserve product warranties, off-grid solar products addressing consumers usually rely on design techniques that are intended to limit third-party access. This is referred to as ‘Black-boxed technologies’ which have the consequences of a limited ability to be repaired, particularly when spare parts are only hard to source locally. A poor reparability design, as well as the typically short lifespan of low quality appliances (three to four years) may lead to an increase in solar e-waste. Most connected OGS systems are distinguished by the fact that they offer comprehensive plug-and-play systems which are marketed as integrated systems that only require little technical knowledge for installation. But when it comes to the interoperability, they are limited as only specific spare parts can be used with the system. This results in a limitation of consumer choice and constraints in the establishment of second-hand markets for solar appliances[2].

Regional insecurities limit the development of mini grid sites

The expansion of mini grid sites in Nigeria and especially in the north of Nigeria suffers from an increased level of insecurities including banditry and insurgencies. Regarding impacts on logistics, operations and maintenance, the transportation of equipment and field personnel to and the quality-of-service deliveries at high-risk project sites are more challenging and lead to higher costs. As a result many areas are excluded from mini grid developers, whether the sites are viable or not. This is particularly obstructive because these areas usually have a lower level of electrification than the rest of the country[3].

Guiding Principles

Which standards need to be met?

Quality standards for SAS products in Nigeria are based on the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards and set out by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON). SON developed quality standards under the SON Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP) for product certifications to ensure minimum product standard conformity through the setting up of a testing lab for market quality checks and surveillance [4].

When importing goods, importers must present a Product Certificate (PC) for the clearance of their goods and a SONCAP Certificate (SC) for each consignment of regulated products issued by an international accreditation company. ACE TAF developed an importation guide for solar PV products and technologies in Nigeria which gives information on quality standards, harmonized commodity description and coding systems as well as providing guidance for the importation process of solar technologies[5].

Usage of Open-source designs

An Open source design is a design which is publicly available and can easily be reproduced, developed and maintained. This means that anyone can look at the data, documents or, in the case of a software, code and in some cases modify and distribute it. Open source can also emerge in the form of a freely accessible blueprint that other developers can adopt. In this way, systems for example mini grids can benefit from the experience of many people and continue to develop[6].

Smart grid technologies like Electronic Load Controllers (ELC) can manage off-grid systems automatically and optimize the use of renewable power. ELCs are often only available at high prices or utilize internet connections when they are not installed in form of a hardware. By using open source designs developers can reduce costs of both acquisition and maintenance. Open source makes it easier to reproduce and therefore manufacture and maintain locally, as the distributors have insights into the hardware. Furthermore the use of ELCs can have the benefit of collecting parameters like the system performance over lifetime or system efficiency, which can help to optimize the use of the system[7].

Localisation of the upstream value chain

The localisation of the upstream value chain of OGS products can create new local businesses. This is especially a benefit in rural areas as the informal sector still represents a large percentage of the economies performance. Especially in the component assembly and manufacturing sector, new jobs can be created. Other areas are: acquisition, sales and distribution, installation, technical maintenance and customer service. Localisation also offers advantages in terms of financing. The Solar Power Naija program requirements for applications include for example a certain share of locally-sourced components[8].

Currently almost all solar related products are imported. Only 10% of market demand is manufactured by two operators in Nigeria. In order to provide incentives for local production, the federal government granted solar panel manufacturing in 2017[9].

Fig.1: Relevant sectors for the localisation of the value chain[10]

Include end-of-life aspects of the infrastructure

The term end-of-life refers to the last step of the product life cycle. Different methods of dealing with a product at the end of its life must be defined. Reusing and recycling components should always be considered first before disposing.

Many solar products are not repaired or recycled or these processes are carried out in the informal sector which can lead to major environmental damage and health issues for the workers and people benefitting from them. Meanwhile an increasing number of companies are focusing on the optimization of the product life cycle, which includes a longer product life and the handling of the product at the end of the value chain. Furthermore, many companies are establishing e-waste strategies voluntarily, motivated through environmental and social aspects. An e-waste strategy can also add economic value by generating an additional source of revenue. For example, the introduction of an after-sale service can help to increase customer trust and thereby increase the return rate of the components which can then be repaired and resold. E-waste strategies may include take-back and collection systems for old appliances, second-life batteries or improved reparability[11].

Various other approaches can be taken into account for incorporating end-of-life aspects in the design of electrification measures. When selecting materials and resources, e.g. batteries, attention should be paid to durability and ease of repair (e.g. by exchanging individual components). Furthermore, customers must be offered incentives to return their old appliances and have defective appliances repaired for example in the form of a warranty. Companies should additionally create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to assist with the operational delivery of an e-waste management strategy[12].

It should be noted that most companies which are voluntarily engaging in e-waste management, are not profitable yet. However, companies can benefit from funding. The Global LEAP Awards is recognising end-of-life aspects through providing grant funding to firms which want to improve repairability, upcycle or recycle solar components[2].

Existing Tools

This section will focus on tools for mini grid and solar home distributors, addressing technical aspects and design considerations.

Mini Grid

This Toolkit summarizes five key steps for a successful mini grid design: (I) geographic scope, (II) access to available energy resources, (III) system size, (IV) system configuration and (V) the distribution system design.

  • HOMER Software

The “Hybrid Renewable and Distributed Generation System Design” (HOMER) software evaluates and compares hybrid micro grids and on-grid systems by cost effectiveness and reliability and optimizes the energy assets (sizing and operation). The software is commonly used for comparing different scenarios.

  • Green Mini-Grid Help Desk

The Help Desk hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) is providing information for mini grid developers, policymakers and regulators in sub-saharan Africa. It provides insights from the setting up of a mini grid (business) over technical design to operation and maintenance. Beside this, publications as well as training and templates to relevant topics can be found here.

  • PROSPECT - Open-source data platform

Prospect is a free, real-time, product-agnostic open source data and transaction platform. Services include the collection of real-time data as well as the analysation and visualization of them. For the analysis of performance and impact, Prospect combines customer, technical, usage, maintenance, and payment data streams. Through the built-in transaction functionality, users can be supported in their financing and subsidy disbursement. The platform is designed for small solar home systems as well as large mini grids and grid-connected networks.

Solar Home Systems (SHS)

  • PVPal - Solar PV System Design Toolkit

The toolkit provided by Green Empowerment, comprises an excel based software for designing off-grid solar systems for small scale power systems.

  • Building DC Energy Systems

The Open Educational Resource provided by Libre Solar is an open source hub, providing information on hardware and software for smart and renewable energy systems. Furthermore the website gives information on the layout of energy systems, component development and production for a printed circuit board (PCB), a carrier for electronic components.

  • ACE-TAF - E-Waste Guide for Stand-Alone Solar in Nigeria

The guide gives useful information and guidance about e-waste management in Nigeria. The document is addressed to governments as well as the private sector and can be served as a standard e-waste reference document for the Nigerian SAS sector.


  • PROSPECT - Open-source data platform

Prospect is a free, real-time, product-agnostic open source data and transaction platform. Services include the collection of real-time data as well as the analysation and visualization of them. For the analysis of performance and impact, Prospect combines customer, technical, usage, maintenance, and payment data streams. Through the built-in transaction functionality, users can be supported in their financing and subsidy disbursement. The platform is designed for small solar home systems as well as for large mini grids and grid-connected networks.

  • SEforAll, AllOn - Economic model for the solar value chain

With the goal of increasing local content in the value chain of OG-appliances, SEforALL and All On developed an economic model for the simulation of the impact of key levers on indicators of the value chain including for instance product prices, created jobs and GHG-emissions. Other tools developed under the project are a supply and demand-side geospatial data platform, the analysis of strengths and weaknesses in the existing solar component value chain as well as a guide with recommendations and implementation for the localization of components.

  • Assessment of Solar PV Component Standards, Certification

The report, published by the Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON),  assesses and appraises the standardisation, certification, and testing facilities in Nigeria for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, batteries, charge controllers, inverters, and energy meters.

  • ELC Wiki

Resource base for open-source technology development for Micro-Hydro Power systems.

Case Study


  1. Ustun, T.S. et al. (2019) ‘Data Standardization for Smart Infrastructure in First-Access Electricity Systems’, Proceedings of the IEEE, 107(9), pp. 1790–1802. Available at:
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Munro, P.G. et al. (2022) ‘Towards a repair research agenda for off-grid solar e-waste in the Global South’, Nature Energy [Preprint]. Available at:
  3. AMDA (2022) Impact of Insecurity on the Development of the Nigerian Mini Grid Sector. AFRICA MINI GRID DEVELOPERS’ ASSOCIATION Nigeria. Available at:
  4. ACE TAF (2021) Stand-Alone Solar Investment Map Nigeria. Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility. Available at:
  5. ACE TAF (2019) Importation Guide for Solar PV Products and Technologies in Nigeria. Nigeria: African Clean Energy (ACE) Technical Assistance Facility (TAF). Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2022).
  6. WISIONS (2021) Smart Grids for Small Grids. Available at: (Accessed: 12 October 2022).
  7. WISIONS (2020) How can open source design contribute to achieving SDG 7? Available at: (Accessed: 12 October 2022).
  8. GOGLA (2019) Off-Grid Solar. A Growth Engine for Jobs. Available at:
  9. RVO (2021) Solar Report Nigeria. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Netherland. Available at:
  10. SEforALL and All On (2021) ‘Achieving Economies of Scale in the Nigerian Solar Value Chain’. Available at: (Accessed: 12 October 2022).
  11. Rhodes, R. (2020) Beyond e-waste: A circular approach to reducing the footprint of the off-grid solar industry, GOGLA. Available at: (Accessed: 6 July 2022).
  12. Magalini, F. et al. (2021) E-Waste Guide for Stand-Alone Solar in Nigeria. Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility (ACE TAF) and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency of Nigeria (NESREA). Available at: