Blog Post

SimpliPhi Eliminates the Challenges of Building Microgrids in Remote Tropical Locations

ethnos360 (New Tribes Mission) was founded in 1942 to provide missionary services around the world. Much of their work is completed in remote parts of the world with no access to power. Offgrid Tech is a ministry of ethnos360 that provides technical help with the physical requirements of working overseas in remote locations for long periods of time. Offgrid Tech designs the power, water and other systems that will meet missionaries’ basic needs while living in remote locations.

In the East Sepik Region of Papua New Guinea, Offgrid Tech installed a solar+SimpliPhi storage microgrid to power a 1250 sq ft bush missionary home -- providing enough power for both household use and computer equipment used in Bible translation and other missionary activities.

The microgrid is comprised of 1.4 kW of solar, six PHI 1.3 kWh batteries, and an OutBack FX 2012 inverter, OutBack charge controller and OutBack Mate.

Two views of the ethnos360 installation consisting of six PHI 1.3 kWh batteries.

The microgrid is able to provide 24-hour off-grid power to a twin tub washing machine, crock-pot, Kitchen Aid mixer, blender, a flat screen TV and occasionally an XBox. The 12 volt side of the house requires power for a Sun Danzer Refrigerator and FreezeOn, electrical outlets that charge three MacBooks, two iPhones and three iPad minis, ceiling fans powered by 12 volt DC treadmill motors, and two 12 volt radiator fans. The system also powers a second building used as a boat house and tool shed LED light throughout both structures.

SimpliPhi batteries were the ideal choice for the project because of their lower weight and smaller footprint, maintenance-free design, and longer lifespan. When shipping equipment over thousands of miles to remote locations such as the East Sepik Region, every square foot and pound of container space comes at a premium, and fewer replacement and maintenance requirements translate into big savings -- making SimpliPhi a better value. With this project, SimpliPhi also facilitated transport that was conducted via small planes and canoes.

By contrast, the lead acid batteries that Offgrid Tech has used historically are extremely heavy and difficult to transport to remote areas. They also have a very limited lifespan when subjected to hot equatorial climates. The home in which the microgrid was constructed consistently reaches temperatures above 100º F, wreaking havoc on previous lead acid installations. In Papua New Guinea, lead acid batteries require replacement an average of every five years or sooner during the microgrid’s anticipated 20 year lifespan. This reality made SimpliPhi’s ability to perform in extreme temperatures a key selling point. Not only do the SimpliPhi batteries have no performance issues, they also provided a simple, direct lead acid replacement.

“SimpliPhi batteries eliminated the most difficult challenges we face when building microgrids in remote tropical locations,” said Offgrid Tech’s Kevin Kellenberger. “The batteries are much easier to transport and they have a good chance of lasting the entire 20 years. This means, for the missionaries we serve, Simpliphi batteries generally pay for themselves in under 4 years!”
The PHI 1.3 kWh battery in particular was the best option given the homes 12 volt electrical design.

Thanks to solar+SimpliPhi microgrids like this installation in New Guinea, ethnos360 is able to more effectively carry out its mission around the globe.