Sunday, April 16, 2017

Gicaca Solar Power Project 2017

It is estimated that only 24% of the population in Rwanda are connected to the electrical grid.  As many as 7 million people do not have access to electricity.  Many of them live in houses built with sun-baked mud.  Many still sleep on a matt on the mud floor.  

Most are forced to go to sleep soon after dark even though they need to do house work, study, and meet for fellowship.   The country simply do not have the capacity to generate enough power for everyone.  And many people live on steep terrain high in the mountains difficult to reach.  

In summer 2016 we installed a solar-electrical system in Gicaca, in the mountains north of Kigali in Rwanda. It consists of 4 charging stations each with a set of 10 solar panels, capable of charging 5 batteries at the same time.  Together with our Rwanda partners, we also wired up 100+ houses with batteries, LED lights and mobile phone chargers.  We and already gone back to check on the system in January 2017 and to plan for another project in summer 2017.  At that time a number of things were uncertain.  Hence a couple of days ago we went back again to Gicaca to check on the systems and to scout the potential site for another round of installations in June 2017.    

The solar charging station is working well.  The host even installed a loud speaker connected to a radio so that the broadcast can be heard much more loudly throughout the house.  That is another indication that the local people can manage the systems well and are even able to extend the system.  

There are 10 20-watt solar panels on the roof of the house, making it a 200 watt system.  In this summer, we plan to fine tune the design and provide electricity to another 100+ families.  We scouted the site together with the staff of our local partner - African Evangelistic Enterprise Rwanda.  We note the distance between the houses, how they are distributed, and the terrain.  

On the spot, I sketched a plan noting which houses to target, how the houses should be clustered, where and how many charging stations to build, and the maximum number of houses that we can wire up, in 5 days of work in the mountains.  

This summer we plan to bring two teams of ~15 students each.  One will install the solar power systems.  The other will work on health and hygiene issues.  We will be jointed by ~15 students from the University of Rwanda, another ~15 youths living in the villages, and several staff of AEE Rwanda for 2 weeks to train, prepare and execute the projects.  Those two weeks will be the time we feel most alive.  

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