David Drennan, a Dartmouth engineering volunteer, has designed improvements to the trolleys which should significantly lengthen their service life.
Meanwhile, resources originally slated for a short bridge in Udayapur (apparently may get a suspended bridge instead) will be redirected to fund the Sukaura bridge, mentioned in our last update. This 165 meter bridge will cut the time for many young people to get to school, in much greater safety. At about $ 19,000 the Sukaura bridge is more expensive than the Udayapur bridge, so another $4,000 must now be raised. Construction starts this week, on the assumption that 'financial bridge-builders' will be found.
From January 2009, the next bridges will be constructed by a new company that is being formed by EcoSystems' current employees. They will be given a license to build WireBridges and to make improvements to the technology, provided a) these changes are approved by VillageTech, and b) VillageTech may share these technology improvements with other licensees.
The story of creation, of new technology in the developing world at least, is not one of a single, brilliant, stroke but definitely one of evolution, trial and error, and survival of the fittest design. We are now in the third generation of the EcoPower systems, with a much clearer idea of the needs for particular features, and the overwhelming need to reduce cost. A few field trials will be under way by year's end; some of the original trial sites will be re-equipped with better equipment, and in some cases, many more households will be added to their village network. Your donations make this expansion practical.
We carried a full power system through the center of Tanahun District last week, spending two nights at diffrent villages to get their comments on the lights, radio, and of course, on the small 10" LCD TV. A companion DVD player provided a UNICEF cartoon with a social message--to the delight of everyone who could squeeze close enough to see.
It's clear that educational DVDs can be a powerful tool in the rural environment where schooling is so difficult and support materials so little. The PedalGenerator offers a way to ensure that the power won't go out.
First of all, an enthusiastic and heartfelt THANK YOU to our generous donors. For you who offered the challenge grants and the many who responded so enthusiastically--you are great. Our team in Nepal is now reviewing all of the test sites as well as several new areas to select a "Village 100". Having completed the necessary 'technical' trials, we now move on to refine the business model for a Village Power and Light 'company'. We will evaluate what it takes ~ probably a service market of at least 100 homes, plus one or more other 'business' applications. Your financial assistance will be used to get the systems into the hands of the users as rapidly as possible.
The first 'harvest' of data are in from the fifteen village test sites of the PedalGenerator and its lighting systems. This data identified parts of the system that need strengthening, and additional features that will make the systems easier to use and more beneficial.
With funding principally from the World Bank's Development Marketplace, EcoSystems provided fourteen communities in Nepal and one in Haiti with the PedalGenerator, PowerCentre (battery storage), and UserBox (home lighting) systems. In Nepal the village sites were selected by two NGOs that focus on rural development.
In each community an individual or group 'entrepreneur' was trained to operate and make minor repairs to the equipment. They kept records of the time the generators ran; the electrical output; the number of times each home-battery was recharged; villagers' ideas for improvements... At the end of November, in exchange for their cooperation in this trial, the entrepreneurs and the collaborating families were each given title to their equipment.
EcoSystems has been fortunate this year to have the assistance of a number of highly qualified volunteers, who have helped to train our Nepali staff, solve mechanical and electronic challenges, and redesign the equipment to include all he improvements noted during the field trials.
The new UserBox, which serves as the power source in an individual home, has been redesigned. The first batch of new circuit boards will arrive in Nepal in March, and appear in rural homes within weeks.
EcoSystems (soon to be known as VillageTech Solutions ~ VTS) is a finalist in a new Development Marketplace competition called "Lighting Africa". If successful in this competition, the DM program will enable VTS to find and train distributors in Africa to carry the EcoPower system.