Friday, January 20, 2017

Solar Charging Stations in Rwanda

In May 2016, our team went to a village in Gicaca, in the mountains north of Kigali in Rwanda to install a solar-electrical power system.  We setup 4 solar power charging stations.  Solar panels were setup on the roof of the house, leading to a circuit with controllers setup to charge 6 solar batteries at the same time.  We then wired up ~60 houses with LED lights and mobile phone chargers, to be powered by batteries, which can then be taken to the charging stations to be re-charged.  We also trained a team of local youths to continue to wire up 60 more houses, for a total of 120 houses, each with their own battery.  We were only able to buy 30 batteries of the specific type and capacity that we wanted because the shop went out of stock.  

We were very happy when we went back to check on the system earlier this week, roughly 7 months afterwards.  The solar panels on the roof of the station that we inspected are still there and functioning, although they are quite dusty.  Four batteries are being charged, together with 3 mobile phones.  

We were informed that the local youths wired up an additional 40+ houses, for a total of 107 houses.  They could only buy another 35 batteries because the battery that we wanted was not available and they could only find an alternate which was more expensive.  

Even though we are still a bit short of the target of 120 houses, we are more than satisfied because the youths have managed to continue the work without our support.  

We are told that each battery (28 ampere-hour capacity) can last approximately 10 days or more before it needs recharging.  That means we can probably use a battery with a smaller capacity, and use the money saved to buy more batteries, so that more houses can have electricity.  

For the coming summer, we will need to raise more funds, to buy more batteries, LEDs, wires, controllers, etc., to do another round of installations with an improved design, with another team of students.  Our first class starts tomorrow.  We are getting excited already.  


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