Australian renewables startup Okra Solar has raised $3 million to scale up distribution of its solar-based hardware and software solutions. It aims to electrify more than 290,000 off-grid homes in Nigeria over the next three years, while also expanding its operations in countries such as Haiti.

From pv magazine Australia

Okra Solar’s mission to provide reliable renewable energy solutions to people living off-grid in developing nations has received a major boost, with the startup raising $3 million to ramp up the distribution of its Internet of Things-enabled mesh-grids.

Launched in 2016, Okra has developed an artificial intelligence-enabled mesh-grid that shares power through an interconnected network of homes. The plug-and-play solar home system includes a solar panel, battery and a smart device. A cloud-based system monitors usage and required maintenance, while allowing for remote control.

At present, the company is focused on the Philippines, Haiti, Cambodia and Nigeria, which is home to the world’s largest unelectrified population, totalling approximately 80 million people. The funding was led by Singapore-based technology fund and advisory group SDGx, Schneider Electric Energy Access, Autodesk Foundation, Explorer Investments and Didendum. Okra is also opening its Series A round, with the aim of raising another $6 million to help finance its expansion into other countries.

SDGx Chief Impact Officer Zarmeen Parvi said Okra Solar ticked all the boxes for the technology fund.

“It’s rare to see an Australian company scale so successfully into many international markets so quickly,” he said. “Okra Solar brings an impact multiplier that intersects and positively contributes towards energy access. This is a great example of how an impact multiplier also drives scale with commercial outcomes, while solving the world’s GHG emissions and climate change problems.”

Okra Solar CEO Afnan Hannan said the funding will be used to scale up commercial operations and product development in Nigeria and Haiti as the company looks to expand.

“It feels great to lock in this funding so that we can accelerate our growth,” he said. “We’re excited to continue charging towards providing energy access for the 770 million people living in off-grid communities. Our mesh-grids leverage IoT and automation to make last-mile electrification affordable and sustainable … even for the most remote villages on the planet. Our innovation has spurred global demand from utility companies.”