Solar Roots

Provide training and equipment for renewable energy sources in low-income communities and developing nations.
Sep 15, 2014

Solar Training for People with Disabilities

Participants learn to measure voltage and current
Participants learn to measure voltage and current

U YE

Through a mutual friend, I met U Ye, a well known activist for people with disabilities in the Mandalay area. When he learned that I gave solar trainings, he immediately requested one for a special group, principally made up of people with disabilities.It is a testament to U Ye's organizing abilities that he was able to bring 25 people from Mandalay and Mogok to Pyin Oo Lwin and to house them and feed them for the 5 days of the PV solar course. U Ye himself is disabled, but this does not affect his tireless work on behalf of disadvantaged people.

AUNG MYINT (*)

As usual, I needed a translator, and Seya Peter, the Director of the Lisu Theologiocal Seminary and fervent organic gardening activist, was kind enough to fill that role for the first two days. When Peter left to teach an organic class elsewhere, one of the participants volunteered to translate, this was Aung Myint. Due to his disability, he lived at home with his parents in a small village near Shwebo and despite his Bachelor's degree in Physics, he was unable to find a job of any kind. In Burma, people with disabilities find it almost impossible to secure employment, even if they are very qualified.

Aung Myint did a good job on the translating and he was obviously so very motivated to to find employment that I determined to help him in that search. I had previously visited the "School for the Needy Blind", located in a monastery on the edge of Pyin Oo Lwin and I thought that might be a place that could use Aung Myint's talents. After a short interview with the Abbot and founder of the monatery, it was agreed that Aung Myint would take on the position of Teacher of English and Physics. I agreed to pay his salary, $100 per month, for the first year and then we would see. Aung Myint was transformed - this was his first job, his first salary, and it gave him a way to be independent of his parents and even send back part of his salary to them. The latest report is that Aung Myint is very happy in his new position and I'm hoping he will find useful the book on Physics I have bought to give to in December.

WHEELCHAIRS

Several of our participants needed wheelchairs to move around on and one of them had actually installed a battery propulsion system that worked reasonably well. He had put together the battey, charger, controller and motor from parts that were made for an electric bicycle. This demonstration creativity and technical ability inspired me to commit to a project to electrify the wheel chairs of the disabled in Mandalay and Mogok. U Ye wants each wheelchair to have it's own onboard solar charging set up. We will see what can be done, as solar panels are large and their power output is low.

CERTIFICATES

After studying hard, six hours a day, for five days, the participants were given Certificates of Completion. Everyone was delighted with the class and promised "never to forget their solar teacher". Burmese people are very respectful towards teachers and older people, so I reap great rewards on both counts!

 (*) Aung Myint is an invented name to protect the identity of this recipient

Pumping water directly with solar panels
Pumping water directly with solar panels
Aung Myint receives his Cerficate of Completion
Aung Myint receives his Cerficate of Completion
The class, with U Ye, in white trousers, front row
The class, with U Ye, in white trousers, front row
Aung Myint, with safety helmet - just in case!
Aung Myint, with safety helmet - just in case!
A student checks the flow of the solar pump
A student checks the flow of the solar pump
Jul 9, 2014

A Stove for Institutions

Hamish spot-welding the chamber to the drum
Hamish spot-welding the chamber to the drum

After trying several prototype institutional-sized stoves using homemade clay bricks and common construction bricks, I decided to build one using stainless steel sheeting as the primary material for the combustion chamber. I was lucky as, at the time, I had the services of a well-qualified and skilled mechanical engineer called Hamish Lee from New Zealand. Also, I had previously brought a spot welder from the States, so we were well tooled-up for the job.

Hamish laid out the sheets to be cut and bent in a very precise manner and this resulted in a finished product that fit together very well. It took us about two days to make the 8" square combustion chamber and chimney section. The combustion chamber was then spot-welded into an old 55-gallon drum and the chimney adapter rivetted on afterwards. With 10ft of chimney, the draft of air through the stove is prodigious! We fired it up just before Hamish left and we were well satisfied with its performance.

Imagine my surprise when I heard that a luminary of the Rocket Mass Heater world was visiting Pyin Oo Lwin and wanted to come over to meet me. I was delighted to welcome Leslie Jackson, who co-authored the seminal book on the subject, "Rocket Mass Heaters", with Ianto Evans, to our humle workshop. I lost no time in roping Leslie in to giving an impromptu indtroduction on Rocket Stoves to our two most recent volunteers from UC Berkeley, Mike and Lisa. Later, we filled the drum with wood ash, (collected from two local monasteries), and this provided good insulation around the combustion chamber. Then it only remainded to install the chimney through the roof of the kitchen in St Mathews Orphanage and the work was complete.

I hope that the stainless steel material will have a useful life of 2 or 3 years. It's not the ideal material, as it quite expensive compared to the financial resouces of the benefitting institutions and it has to be imported from China. However, it is one more step in the experiment that is "Improved Cook Stoves for Burma" and it will give us useful feedback.

Note the Downfeed/Ash drawer on the left
Note the Downfeed/Ash drawer on the left
Hamish gets some help preparing the grate
Hamish gets some help preparing the grate
Leslie explains the principles of the Rocket Stove
Leslie explains the principles of the Rocket Stove
The Stove team pose for a shot!
The Stove team pose for a shot!
Jun 20, 2014

Solar Lights for Emmanuel Orphanage

Earlier this year Solar Roots was invited to come to Kayamyo in western Sagaing Region to install a solar system at Emmanuel Orphanage Center. The Center was founded 3 years ago by Pastor Joel and he runs it with his wife and his parents. There are many orphaned kids up in the border area close to India and Joel hopes to be able to take in more and more as time goes on.Right now they are constrained by lack of funding. Previous to our arrival, the Orphanage depended on power supplied by a local generator, who charged $2 per month per light, for only 2 hours of service per day. Kayalmyo, being a remote border town, is not well supported by the central government, especially in the area of energy. There are no official gas stations and all fuel is sold on the black market from small roadside vendors. Since the government doesn't offer regular electricity supply, almost every second house has a solar system - the highest market penetration for solar I had ever seen in Burma. So it was a breeze to pick up the 300Watt panel, a great solar battery from India and all the parts we needed, including 18 LED lights, that fairly lit the place up.

I am still in Burma and the internet is too slow to upload photos, so to see some images and to read a Blog written by Hamish Lee, our New Zealand voluteer, place go to this link: http://leesmission.blogspot.com/

Thank you for your continued support,

Bruce

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