15 June 2016
The Northern most part of Sri Lanka remains underdeveloped even though the 25 year civil war ended in 2009. Conditions are very hard on the mainland near the city of Jaffna and harder on the surrounding islands. Access to the things we take for granted in the West is limited. When the opportunity presented to bid on a solar and wind power development project on the island of Eluvaitivu located 4km offshore from the Northern Sri Lankan town of Kayts, Si Clean Energy didn’t hesitate. I was contacted by a local Sri Lankan PV engineer who wanted his company to make a decisive move into off-grid systems. Previously they had successfully installed grid connected solar systems, but with no experience in off-grid they felt the safest option was to partner with a high profile foreign company and make a competitive tender bid for the project. From that point on we worked together as one to prepare the bid documentation. As it turned out, our Eluvaitivu Island PV and Wind micro-grid proposal won and we set about procuring the components and having them delivered to the remote location by planes, trains and automobiles and a local small boat service. There are no vehicles on the island but for a uniquely Sri Lankan machine called a “Landmaster,” which is a small agricultural rotary hoe converted to utility vehicle of sorts. The system configuration is AC coupled and consists of a 46kWp PV array, six 3.5kW wind turbines, twelve SMA Sunny Island 8kW inverters and a 100kWh lithium-ion battery bank. The purpose of the off-grid system is to reduce the consumption of diesel at the existing power plant. There are 180 families living on the island all of whom rely on fishing for their income. The people of Eluvaitivu have received assistance previously for the construction of the local fish market building and more recently a fish drying facility. Their solar power project is a fine example of disruptive technology reaching even the remotest of islanders.