Sunrise for the People of Bamyan, Afghanistan

Afghanistan PV Plant

The Bamyan province in Central Afghanistan is famous for its giant Buddha statues that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. So far, people in this area have had no electrical system. They either relied on small diesel generators or domestic solar panels for their electricity supply or they had no access to electricity at all. This has changed recently. The Bamyan Renewable Energy Programme brought sustainable and cost-efficient solar energy to their lives.


With 1 megawatt output, it is one of the world’s largest off-grid solar systems.

With 1 megawatt output, it is one of the world’s largest off-grid solar systems.

Access to electricity makes a big difference

„It is always amazing to see what a big difference a reliable access to electricity can make to the lives of people”, says Tony Woods. Sustainable Energy Services International, the company of the New Zealander, has already installed numerous off-grid solar systems in Afghanistan. But the Bamyan  Renewable Energy Programme funded by the government of New Zealand is the biggest so far. With 1 megawatt output, it is one of the world’s largest off-grid solar systems. It consists of a PV generator supplemented with a diesel generator and batteries for periods of poor weather. And it reliably supplies homes, businesses and government building, such as schools and hospitals, in the villages of Bamyan New City, Haiderabad and Mullagullam with clean electricity 24 hours a day.


Afghanistan poses a challenge for men and material

Although they had to master several challenges, Tony and his team completed the off-grid system in only 14 months’ time. Not only the poor infrastructure within the country, which has faced several wars over the last decades, made it very difficult to bring many tons of materials to the construction site. Afghanistan is also a landlocked country, so the equipment had to be transported through neighboring countries such as Iran or Pakistan. “In addition we worked together with Afghan engineers, tradesmen and laborers who didn’t speak any English. So every single thing had to be translated”, Tony explains. He says that the people in the region at first were very suspicious of the project. But their suspicion soon changed to hope and excitement.


Knowledge transfer from Germany to New Zealand to Afghanistan

Climatic conditions in Central Afghanistan are also hard on men and material. The summers are hot while there is a lot of snow in the winters. “Even though realizing solar projects in Afghanistan requires special efforts, it is worthwhile. With our technology, we can significantly improve the standard of living in this crisis region. Reliable access to  electricity opens the door to medical care, education and economic development,” says Matthias Hermes who is responsible for the project at SMA.

118 Sunny Island inverters control the off-grid system.

118 Sunny Island inverters control the off-grid system.

SMA not only delivered 118 Sunny Island inverters to control the off-grid system and 55 Sunny Tripower inverters to convert the direct current produced by the photovoltaic panels into the alternating current necessary for electrical appliances. “A couple of years ago, Tony and his team were also provided with a special training at our Solar Academy in Niestetal. With this, we enabled them to commission even very complex off-grid systems.”

Now, Tony and his colleagues from SESI forward their knowledge to the employees of the local utility in Bamyan which will operate the off-grid system. “After commissioning the system  we have entered into a one year service and support period to ensure that the training and capacity building program completed during the project is embedded and the financial, managerial and technical procedures provided are assimilated into the local utility,” Tony stresses.

While the people of the Bamyan province enjoy their newly won energy autarky, Tony and Matthias are looking for new projects that will bring sustainable electricity to people in need in Afghanistan and elsewhere.



Want to learn more about this project? You can find all facts and figures in this blog post.

5/5 - (1 vote)
  1. Herman Shim
    Herman Shim says:

    Excellent work.
    Our 27Kwp SMA SI system was installed in 2015 with a two fold objective:1) Planned expansion to Eventually remove the campus from the National grid and 2) Provide advanced Off Grid System Training for our students.

  2. Taj Khan
    Taj Khan says:

    Afghanistan is my neighbor country, this is a greet job in war affected country, we need such a project in Pakistan also. is SMA is operating in Pakistan.

  3. Mahdi
    Mahdi says:

    great job, I am also eager to get some more technical information regarding this project such as; load estimation, capacity of batteries, inverters and PV panels .

    mahdi from Afghanistan

    • Henrik Schenck
      Henrik Schenck says:

      great that you like our installation.
      I forwarded your question about details to our experts who
      installed the plant.

      We’ll get back to you asap.


  4. Leonie Blume
    Leonie Blume says:

    Hi all,
    Thanks for your great praise. I will forward it to my colleagues involved.

    Right now we are working on a reference datasheet which will include all the relevant technical information. As soon as this is ready, it will be made available on this site.

    With the aid of the Sunny Island Charger, the PV source can be connected on the DC side in addition to the AC coupling. This makes sense when loads are active at night, as the solar energy needs to the stored in any case.
    The Sunny Island system provides great flexibility for possible combinations of AC and DC coupling.


  5. Mahant Parekh
    Mahant Parekh says:

    Excellent job. congratulations. can you also please let me know some more details like area acquired,no. of panels required, no. of inverters used. i am interested in technical details.please let me know if its possible.
    Thank you,

  6. Rustin Gilles
    Rustin Gilles says:

    Congratulations for this beautiful off-grid system! It would be nice to give more informations about technical details for this system. Architecture of the system, PV power, genrator power, battery capacity, load profile,…)

    I thought that Sunny Island Charger were for small off-grid systems. Perhaps there is DC consumption on this case, which justify this SIC?

    How did you make to estimate the consumption and the loads profile (peak power of the loads on 24h) to make dimensioning of the Sunny Island (max output power)? Perhaps the grid was already existing? In this case it’s easier to establish the loads profile…

    Anyway, MW off-grid project is a good step!

    • Jannis Rudzki-Weise
      Jannis Rudzki-Weise says:

      Thanks, Michael! It was great pleasure working on this project.

      Best regards,

  7. Petar
    Petar says:

    It would be great if you could share some additional technical details since this is a remarkable off-grid system. What intrigues me is the presence of SICs in the system.
    Any way, congratulations to all of those invoved in the project!

    • Jannis Rudzki-Weise
      Jannis Rudzki-Weise says:

      Thanks for your interest, Petar. I will pass your questions on to our colleagues who worked on the project and will get back to you with the answers next week. Enjoy the weekend!

      Best regards,

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