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Solar micro-grids

microgrid at schoolPartnering with international agencies, MANDO has brought solar micro-grids that produce electricity to its constituent communities.

Involved from the initial survey in January 2014 to appraise the need and prospects for the grids, MANDO liaised with community members ranging from pastors, chiefs, sub-chiefs, county officials and potential users to advance the projects. On the basis of survey findings Eremit, Entasopia and Olturoto were selected in the summer as demonstration sites. Residents and businesses were briefed on use, fees to be expected, connection costs and responsibility for ongoing maintenance. Permits from government authorities and consent to locate the units had to be obtained.

In early December MANDO's three communities as well as seven others in five counties, had systems installed and operating, possible due to cooperation with Green Empowerment, Access:Energy and Powergen. Each customer has his own power monitor at the hub along with security measures such as circuit breakers and fire extinguishers. Customers are shown tariffs based on use of power, then can begin to buy power paying via Mpesa. Training was provided on how to do this and check payment balances.

The size of the power generation unit (solar photovoltaic cells) can be matched to the size of the demand. These grids can be expanded as use increases.
 
MANDO and Green Empowerment will continue to research and coordinate development activities for these communities. For example, they sought backing of a U.S. investor involved with micro-grid systems to extend use of the Olturoto micro-grid to provide electricity to the school (upper left picture). Installation is nearly complete. Not only will this project enhance educational opportunities for 350 students currently enrolled, but likely will draw back students being sent to boarding school due to the lack of electricity at the local school. It is a testing ground to see how micro-grids can further serve communities where they are located. Another benefit from the micro-grids is reducing kerosene use and subsequent respiratory and eye infections as well as pollutants emitted.

Yet another direction to pursue is micro-grid battery charging. Batteries owned by a local entrepreneur and charged at the central system would be rented to individual manyattas unable to connect to the community micro-grid. The batteries would power several lights, charge cell phones and power small radios for an estimated two weeks. Depending on individual household needs, additional power can be added.

Ongoing programs

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