New Sun Road is a California technology company committed to implementing solutions to climate change and global energy poverty, providing electricity to communities, health clinics, and education centers in remote and challenging environments. NSR brings expertise in finance, engineering, economics, and conservation to partnerships with local operations in rural, developing economies to design, build, and operate clean, renewable power systems. NSR currently has on-the-ground operations in East Africa and Vietnam, and is growing its team while scaling up microgrid projects in Uganda.
Interested in developing solar projects for your community or partnering with New Sun Road to leverage our engineering design and project execution experience? Please contact us and preview our technology.
Solar power is better than it's ever been; it can be built affordably at any size, put wherever it makes sense, and combined with batteries to keep the power on at night and on rainy days. Energy doesn't have to be dirty to be affordable, and you don't need a big expensive grid to have power whenever you want it. New Sun Road works anywhere, in some of the most challenging environments, providing a wide variety of research, design, and installation services along with a proprietary microgrid architecture and live monitoring tools.
Large, centralized grids simply aren't serving enough people, and they won't be anytime soon. Rural communities, especially those struggling with poverty, need a solution now to teach their children, to grow their businesses, to better their health, and to live better lives. New Sun Road has partnered with Ugandan green energy startup GRS Commodities to provide clean and affordable power to thousands of people on an island chain in Lake Victoria.
Generally referred to as the greatest engineering accomplishment of the 20th century, the "grid" has enabled tremendous prosperity—for the people who have access to it. The fact is that the model of "top down" infrastructure development often leaves out groups of people who have less political power, or whose needs are deemed too costly by central planning agencies. The traditional grids we know are in a state of crisis in many emerging nations: the costs of delivering energy are rising, the old model is slow to respond to environmental pressures and changing resource markets, and millions of people live a stone's throw from power lines but can't pay the up front cost to connect. New Sun Road sees this problem as partly one of design; it is difficult to design and build a fair and efficient "one-size-fits-all" system from the top.
Rapidly maturing small-scale energy technologies, specifically solar power and battery storage, give us the tools to build "bottom-up" power systems and to replicate the modern success stories of the Internet and mobile communications. Instead of large, centralized energy projects, New Sun Road focuses on addressing the specific needs of communities and neighborhoods now; planting the seed from which an organic energy system may grow. The key to our system is that we've figured out the technical and financial pieces to make these power systems grow in lockstep with the needs of users, allowing us to build for today with tomorrow in mind.
"New Sun Road is literally lighting up Uganda’s economy. The small business, supported with a grant from Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, provides a critical service, creates jobs and is the kind of enterprise we aim to support with a second round of grants for innovators around the world."
We are excited to announce our partnership with Microsoft through the Affordable Access Initiative that aims to help close the global digital divide, which currently leaves 4.2 billion people without access to the Internet and the opportunities that it provides.
As a recipient of Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative grant, New Sun Road is uniquely equipped to address this challenge. Our combined efforts to bring modern Internet to developing communities will help spur a new generation of New Sun Road systems that bundle both electricity and Internet services.
At New Sun Road, we believe in the power of electricity to change lives. Rural communities, especially those struggling with poverty, deserve efficient and sustainable energy solutions to teach their children, grow their businesses, better their health, and improve their lives. Now, with the help of Microsoft, our efforts to bring energy to those left in the dark by traditional infrastructure will be augmented with modern Internet access—allowing communities to create connections and build opportunities on a global scale.
We look forward to updating you further on this partnership and on our upcoming projects! Find out more about our partnership here.
-The New Sun Road Team
"One of the largest hurdles for developing areas is the lack of reliable infrastructure—and perhaps most importantly, access to a reliable and affordable source of electricity. Without it, residents and businesses operate in a world of uncertainty and the risk of the power going out is always present..."
More than 50 business leaders from across the country traveled to the White House on February 17 to brief senior Administration officials on how climate change affects local businesses and the importance of setting strong clean energy standards.
The discussion focused on methods to mitigate the effects of severe weather and efforts to make America the world leader in bringing clean energy products and solutions to market.
New Sun Road is not in the business of providing small solar home systems for only lighting and cell phone charging. While those are important basic services, NSR believes that people have a right to electricity that can enable local businesses and productive industry. NSR microgrids enable not only lighting, communications, and entertainment, but pumping, refrigeration, and clothes irons.
New Sun Road recognizes that communities evolve, especially after the introduction of electricity. Sustainable infrastructure must meet not only the demands of today, but those of tomorrow as well. NSR's microgrids are built with modular components and flexible configurations so they can evolve with communities and grow over the years with electricity demand.
There is a consensus among case studies carried out by academic and multilateral institutions that proper maintenance is the most important success factor in off-grid energy projects. "Ensuring proper maintenance"; however, is easier said than done in a remote rural area in a different country with limited communications.
By employing frugal principles and embracing a "do-it-yourself" attitude to modifying familiar devices, we built a granular, real-time analytics and remote control platform for both our solar generation system and our customers' electricity usage without running up our system costs. This information allows us to anticipate problems before they happen, ensure correct maintenance, understand our users' needs, and continuously optimize our system.
In addition to our remote monitoring, we are very serious about sharing our technical knowledge with our local partners and the communities with which we work. A crucial component of our process is training local technicians and providing Ugandan technical students with internship opportunities; teaching everything from solar system design to information and communication technology to construction best practices.
The Ssese Islands are home to more than 50,000 people. All but one of the islands lack electricity service, and the migratory nature of the inhabitants and remote location of the islands create many infrastructure challenges that are well met by New Sun Road's small footprint and dynamic power systems.
The backbone of the economy is fishing, which supports an array of service and processing businesses. Results from surveys and a pilot project conducted by New Sun Road and its partners show that there is a huge unmet demand for reliable electricity service. Entrepreneurs need affordable lighting for security and extended business hours, refrigeration for food preservation and adding value to consumer goods, computers for entertainment and information services, and machinery ranging from hair clippers and blenders to construction and power tools.
Is it possible to increase energy use and grow an economy without putting more stress on the planet? This is the fundamental challenge of the 21st century. New Sun Road believes it is possible, and we are proving it.
In the summer of 2015, New Sun Road, Ugandan startup GRS Commodities, and the University of California, Berkeley Cal-RAE group began providing the first ever 24/7 metered electricity service, powered entirely by solar, on Kitobo Island. Thirty four businesses are now receiving power and making regular electricity payments, saving an average 50 percent of their energy costs by switching to the solar microgrid from diesel generators. The system is generating sufficient revenue to cover maintenance costs and recoup the capital investment...in other words: it works.
After the successful demonstration of our model, we are committed to extending electricity service to each of the inhabited Ssese Islands over the next two years.
Following values of bottom-up development and user-focused design, New Sun Road exercised a careful survey and interview process to make sure our pilot system met the needs not just of the focus user group, but the community at large. In order to address spatial constraints, provide security for our equipment, and provide the public good of solar street lighting, we created a small footprint "solar tree" design to allow the power system to seamlessly integrate into the flow of community. Immediately after commissioning the system, we received feedback that the solar street lighting fostered a feeling of greater safety and benefited nearby businesses, and that residents enjoyed the new light for tasks such as fetching water.
New Sun Road's roots are in the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative at the University of California, Berkeley, where the co-founders of New Sun Road were working with the Southeast Asia - Renewable and Adaptive Energy (SEA-RAE) group designing electric power systems for communities in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. In 2014, SEA-RAE changed its name to Cal - Renewable and Adaptive Energy (Cal-RAE) as it adopted a more global focus.
New Sun Road continues to value academic collaboration; we provide student members of Cal-RAE with guidance and opportunities to apply their education to real-world problems, and they provide us with fresh perspective and help us better understand the impact of our work. Students work on projects that include analyzing the cradle-to-grave environmental impacts of our electricity project, engineering new technical solutions, and exploring ways to engage different types of finance for infrastructure projects. Below is a video from a Spring 2015 Cal-RAE crowdfunding campaign for the Kitobo pilot project.
In 2012 Jalel cofounded the Cal – Renewable and Adaptive Energy (CAL-RAE) network at Berkeley. In 2013 CAL-RAE (then SEA-RAE) won a United Nations SEED award award as an “exceptional social and environmental start-up enterprise.” In 2014 Jalel and CAL-RAE spun off the benefit corporation New Sun Road.
After six years spent developing a successful freelance writing business, Jalel in 2006 turned his attention to sustainability, in particular climate change mitigation and adaptation. In 2007 he founded the Vietnam Green Building Council (VGBC), now the nation’s leading green building organization, serving as its executive director until 2009. That year Jalel was profiled by FuturArc magazine (“The Voice of Green Architecture in Asia”) as one of Asia’s top 18 positive actors in the building sector. He remains an active VGBC board member and pro-bono international coordinator for Green Cities Fund, the non-profit parent.
Jalel received his PhD in 2015 from the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at the University of California-Berkeley. He has received the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship; a US Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship; and a National Merit scholarship. He earned an ERG Masters’ degree in 2011 and did his undergraduate work at New York University’s Gallatin School.
Jonathan has diverse practical and theoretical experience in renewable power systems. He received degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and in Environmental Economics and Policy from UC Berkeley in 2013 with an emphasis on electric power systems, control and optimization theory, and the intersection of technology and economic development.
A co-founder of the social benefit corporation New Sun Road, he oversees the technical aspects of their solar energy and energy access analytics program from design to materials procurement to implementation of solutions. Prior to collaborating on New Sun Road he developed practical experience in the field designing and installing off-grid solar energy systems in impoverished communities on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. He has a strong theoretical base in electric power systems and technology adoption from research exploring the diagnostic and control applications of novel measurement technologies in utility power distribution networks, as well as on the potential for community based design techniques to create energy independence for Native American nations. He also brings professional experience in web based software development, contracting with the (San Francisco) Bay Area Air Quality Management District from 2010-2012 building analytics and process tools for air quality engineers and inspectors.
Jonathan’s interests center on targeting sophisticated small scale technologies at underserved communities and tapping the potential of information and decentralized infrastructure to strengthen community economies and bring people closer to each other and their environments.
An alumnus of the College of Natural Resources at UC-Berkeley, Austin focuses on energy and community development. He has worked on a variety of projects that assessed social, economic, and environmental impacts of energy on remote communities.
Austin uses information and networking technologies in concert with GIS tools (such as remote sensing and spatial analytics), to allow off-grid communities to use available resources efficiently and promote socio-economic development. Austin builds the network systems that allow for remote monitoring and maintenance of New Sun Road microgrids.
Prior to co-founding New Sun Road, Austin worked as a researcher at the University of California, where he designed a mini-grid system for an isolated community in the Galapagos. The result was a holistically informed design that served the needs of consumers while simultaneously promoting environmental and health benefits.
Austin has experience with project management, online operations, and procurement for various business establishments.
We are searching for a creative, motivated, and self-disciplined project engineer who is passionate about renewable energy and combating global poverty. The expectation is that initially your responsibilities will be very broad, and as the team grows you will assume either a leadership or technical specialist role depending on your interests and skills.