Can solar let poor people “leapfrog” the grid?

Short answer: not really.

Cell phones were/are a big success in allowing poor people in the developing world to get first world service without requiring a traditional “land-line” infrastructure.

But most solar installations for the poor in the developing world are pretty low power. They don’t run bigger appliances.

Also, we at CG have just learned that the sun doesn’t shine at night!

At our house we have a solar array that is powerful enough to run the all our appliances and provide all our energy needs. It cost $15,000! It’s tied to the grid so we don’t need to worry about the night time power issue, but on our own, we’d need one or two of those new Elon Musk Powerwall storage units, say another $7000.

That cost structure is just not going to work in the developing world.

As things stand, there is still no cheap, good, substitute for an electrical grid. What the linked article calls “real electricity”.

And while many of us worry about the environmental effects of increased carbon based electricity production, it’s good to remember that a lot of folks without electricity are burning kerosene for lighting or running generators to power appliances.