Publication - Solar Milling: Exploring Market Requirements to Close the Commercial Viability Gap

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Solar Milling: Exploring Market Requirements to Close the Commercial Viability Gap
Efficiency for Access
Efficiency for Access
Published in
January 2020
Many rural off-grid communities rely on diesel-powered milling equipment to process important staple crops. Despite their relatively low upfront costs, diesel mills are expensive to operate, difficult to run, and harmful to the environment. Solar-powered electric mills offer a more reliable and sustainable alternative. This report uses data collected from field testing results of solar mills in East Africa to analyze the market requirements for solar mills and assess their commercial viability. Its findings present opportunities for improving solar milling technologies and recommendations for how to close the commercial viability gap between diesel and solar.

Key findings included:

  • 95% of surveyed potential mill operators prefer solar to diesel mills; however, the high costs and low throughput levels of solar systems remain prohibitive for wide-scale adoption, as opposed to diesel alternatives.
  • The addition of battery-coupled energy systems to solar mills can create alternative, income-generating avenues for solar mill owners that could reduce the system’s payback periods, making this technology more accessible and affordable for consumers in off-grid communities.
  • Solar mills offer the abilities to mill a variety of grains and perform additional functions such as cell phone charging, in addition to offering a wide-array of health benefits, as opposed to diesel mills.
  • Prospective solar mill owners were found willing to pay USD 1,400 for a mill, while the actual current cost is USD 2,500 – a gap that more research and development initiatives must address in order to reach successful market adoption and commercial scale.