How to make a solar-powered mini-mall, using nanogrids

Sesame Solar’s mobile, turnkey solutions could rejuvenate local economies.

SHORTLIST (Technology Innovation Challenge)

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Solar power can transform off-grid communities. For millions of people however, installation and running costs remain a formidable barrier.

But what if solar-powered grids came with commercial services pre-installed, from cold storage to charging electric vehicles? These could help offset costs and widen access to reliable energy.

Sesame Solar may have the answer. The company designs and manufactures pre-engineered and pre-configured nanogrids – dubbed Solutions Inside – that cater to specific needs. 

They offer a range of benefits, including trade, communication, clean water and education. 

When grouped together, Sesame Solar’s nanogrids can also become service and retail hubs in villages and rural towns.

These makeshift malls can provide a catalyst for economic development in remote communities.

Relevant Sustainable Development Goals

The team at Sesame Solar want to test this idea by installing three nanogrids with Solutions Inside as anchor tenants in Auroville, a Unesco-supported community in South India.

One nanogrid will specialize in cold storage for restaurants and local farmers. Another will provide portable power for household appliances. The third will serve as a charging station for electric bikes, scooters and rickshaws.

If successful, this containerized mini-mall could expand to offer medical and water filtration services as well as retail outlets, including cafés, grocery stores, hairdressers and laundrettes.

A pilot, meanwhile, can explore commercial models to support these malls in the future, with income coming from advertising and paid services.


Solar power, ready to go

Sesame Solar, founded in 2017, is a majority woman-owned small business based in the US, with a subsidiary in India.

The company’s nanogrids are built from ISO shipping containers and DOT-certified dual-axle trailers, and can be easily transported by forklift, crane, truck, train, ship, cargo plane or helicopter. 

Once on location, it takes one person less than 15 minutes to get one up and running. These mobile, turnkey solutions can also help with disaster preparation and emergency response as a result.

Furthermore, Sesame Solar’s nanogrids can connect to one another to share power. They can also accept input from other power sources, including wind turbines, gas and diesel generators, and can be tied into mini, micro and traditional grids as well.

Each nanogrid has a lifespan of over 20 years and requires minimal maintenance and training.

Sesame Solar was shortlisted in the ‘Renewable energy-based micro-grids’ category for the ADB’s Energy Sector Technology Innovation Challenge.

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Lauren Flanagan

Executive Chair, Sesame Solar

Namit Jhanwar

VP Solutions, Sesame Solar

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