Nov 12, 2020

Ha Makebe: Poles and Wires!

Meeting with community laborers
Meeting with community laborers

Hello everyone from sunny Lesotho,

As we start summer here in Lesotho, things have been very busy at Onepower!  Over the past 5 months we have hired 7 new employees and taken on 3 new energy access fellows (6-month student internships), expanded construction capabilities through purchase of a telehandler, crane truck, and drill rig, upgraded engineering facilities at our HQ including a new plasma cutter, and been awarded two new grants - one from USAID to upgrade energy facilities at 3 PIH health clinics and one from EEP to roll out a new program supporting small business growth in our minigrid communities over the next 2 years.

Perhaps most exciting, however, has been to see the minigrid at Ha Makebe starting to take shape.  So far this year we have mapped out the proposed locations of the poles, held meetings with the community to get feedback, and started to get customer signups.  Teboho, our Lead Electrical Engineer, has been overseeing the construction team of about a dozen community members to mark out pole locations, dig holes, and install each pole perfectly straight.  At the same time, the team is installing grounding wires for safety and stay wires for stability.  This has been a lot of hard work, and I am attaching some photos of the process so you can see for yourself the hard work and progress the team is making.

Now that 100% of the poles are in (over 100 in total!) the team will be starting to string the wires between the poles, the next step toward connecting each household and business to the local distribution network.  In parallel, the manufacturing team at HQ is working on the energy generation module (PV trackers) that will be used to supply electricity to this minigrid.

I am looking forward to continuing to share stories and photos of this minigrid as each pieces comes into place, and for so many of you who have been on this journey with us for quite some time, I hope it is exciting to see the fruits of our efforts coming into being!

WIshing everyone a safe and healthy remainder to 2020 and positive things to come in 2021.

-Matt

Installing  poles for electrical distribution wire
Installing poles for electrical distribution wire
Adding stay wires to poles at Ha Makebe
Adding stay wires to poles at Ha Makebe
Jul 14, 2020

Construction in two villages

Structural storm damage in a house near Neo 1 site
Structural storm damage in a house near Neo 1 site

Hello again,

From chilly Lesotho wishing you greetings this month in our first newsletter since 2020 upended everyone's expectations.  Here in Lesotho we had a 5-week national shutdown in responsonse to the COVID pandemic in March-May, but as essential services (electricity providers) our team has been busy the whole time.  During that period we kept our minigrid online, worked on some key maintenance to the infrastructure, and developed a training program so that anyone working from home could be improving their skill base.

And since then things have been busy on both of our project fronts.  The Neo 1 PV Powerplant Project supported the reconstruction of a home that was destroyed during a recent storm. The house belongs to a community member in Ha Ramarothole, a widow looking after 8 children.  After hearing about this incident and the context, 1PWR and the Neo 1 Consortium quickly decided to fully finance the reconstruction of the home as a matter of corporate social responsibility. The Neo 1 project purchased all materials and labor to rebuild the home, and the community pitched in with volunteer labour. We are happy to report that the house is now structurally complete and ready for the family to use!

Meanwhile at Ha Makebe Energy Access Fellow Maphoka Seleke conducted a follow up survey for our initial customers who have been connected to minigrid electricity for over a year - the response was overwhelming that electricity has transformed their lives for the better. We are also setting the stage for construction of the full minigrid:  communicating to the community the proposed locations of electricity poles for feedback, setting up a community counsel to manage sign-ups for connections, and putting in orders for all of the components that will be needed.  For those of you who may be interested, in the "links" section I am also sharing overhead footage of Ha Makebe taken by drone, so you can see the site from a bird's eye view.

We expect the next 3-6 months to be incredibly busy with construction at Ha Makebe, manufacturing facility upgrades, and planning for our next 8-10 minigrid locations.  I am looking forward to sharing more in the next newsletters!

I hope everyone is staying safe and productive.  Cheers,

-Matt

Everyone pitches in to unload rebuilding materials
Everyone pitches in to unload rebuilding materials
Professional Mason laying bricks for the new house
Professional Mason laying bricks for the new house
Widow and family at their new home!
Widow and family at their new home!
Followup survey at Ha Makebe by Maphoka Seleke
Followup survey at Ha Makebe by Maphoka Seleke

Links:

Mar 18, 2020

Ha Makebe: Preparing for Scale-up !

Onepower's Jordan shows LEWA the Ha Makebe system
Onepower's Jordan shows LEWA the Ha Makebe system

Hi folks,

Last week we obtained the construction permit for the full scale Ha Makebe solar minigrid from the Berea district planning office.  We also took a step towards completing the license application process by presenting at a pitso (village meeting) organized by LEWA (the regulator).  By law in Lesotho licenses to generate and distribute electricity must involve a formal public consultation, and the representatives from LEWA, along with chief Makebe and local councilor Zwane, gathered on a sunny Thursday morning and listened to the questions and concerns of the community surrounding the electrification process.  Overall, they found Ha Makebe residents were enthusiastic about electrification and well informed with regards to the commercial arrangements around connection and the unit price of electricity, thanks to 1PWR team's ongoing stakeholder engagement and the pilot connecting the two schools, church and 5 households that we have been operating in a corner of Ha Makebe for the past year.   LEWA had helpful advice regarding the priority of customer care, which 1PWR will be working to provide at a high standard during the coming years of operating the minigrid.  We look forwards to LEWA completing their process - this is the last stop on the road to construction of Lesotho's first solar minigrid and the community and 1PWR are eager to get started!

Matt

Village meeting with LEWA at Ha Makebe
Village meeting with LEWA at Ha Makebe
 
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