Characterising remote communities in developing countries is notoriously difficult due to the lack of high-quality data about these villages. This lack of information is a major roadblock for governments, development finance institutions, investors, solar home system companies and micro-grid developers when they plan electrification projects. They need to know the size of the communities, the level of access to electricity as well as their socio-economic health. To gather this data, they currently rely on expensive on-ground surveys which keeps them from scaling and accelerating their business growth. With Village Data Analytics (VIDA), we point developers to the most promising sites within their area of interest. Using earth observation, big data and machine learning, we extract meaningful proxies for wealth, economic and agricultural activity.
Users and their needs
- Governments and development finance institutions need to perform country-wide analyses and surveys to identify optimal electrification strategies and make data-driven decisions about bundling sites for tender processes.
- Develop least-cost electrification strategies
- Identify micro-grid sites at scale for country-wide electrification tenders
- Cross check survey results with earth observation data to improve planning quality
- Micro-grid developers plan, build and operate micro-grids in off-grid, rural communities.
- Find suitable sites in a scalable way
- Access project funding
- Clear decision-making tool that fits into their existing work flow
- Off-grid energy product companies (Solar Home Systems, solar lanterns) are looking to expand into new areas.
- Curated market intelligence on off-grid markets for expansion
- Locate underserved areas within existing markets
- Planning supply chains based on expected demand.
- Investors are looking for financially viable energy access projects. They need to assess the risk of investments in specific micro-grid projects.
- De-risk investment by providing information and data about potential sites.
We involved leading micro-grid developers and off-grid solar product companies in the feasibility study and will expand the user base in the demonstration project.
Service/ system concept
VIDA supplies the user with summary statistics about settlements in a defined region of interest. Different weights are assigned to each estimated value. The result in an intelligent map showing the best sites. The extracted values in the current VIDA version fall into the following categories:
- Village size and demographics
- Road network analysis
- Vegetation analysis
- Water body analysis
- Survey analysis
- Energy modelling
These factors are used as proxies to estimate demand as well as willingness and ability to pay for electricity, which ultimately results in the ranking of each village according to its potential for micro-grid development. The intelligent map is presented in an online user interface.
VIDA user interface
Space Added Value
The tool uses Sentinel-1 and -2 data. This has the following benefits:
- Free data, enabling us to offer affordable services to the emerging micro-grid sector in developing countries in an up-to-date manner.
- Historical and continuously acquired satellite imagery enables us to detect changes in rural communities and monitor vegetation vitality.
We combine the Copernicus imagery with freely available geospatial information layers as well as socio-economic datasets we have access to. Combining these datastreams continuously refines the VIDA analysis.
We are offering the current version of VIDA to development finance institutions, governments and energy access companies. We are committed to continuously deploy and improve VIDA in the field. This is why we have ongoing collaborations with leading micro-grid developers to help them in their site identification efforts.