Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho

by STG International
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Solar Jobs & Energy - Village Minigrids in Lesotho
Recent construction of a new 1PWR PV solar system
Recent construction of a new 1PWR PV solar system

Hello everyone,

Hoping that all is well with you since our last update.  We have been very busy here at 1PWR so far in 2022!

As you have heard about in previous reports, we have been working hard, partnered with Partners in Health, to upgrade the energy systems at 7 front lines health clinics they operate.  We have now fully commissioned all 7 of those systems (the last coming online in Lebakeng a few months back), but building on this initiative, and with the support of project sponsors (REPP, EDFI, and UN CDF), during the past months we have turned our attention again to adding new anchor customers at each of these sites - using the clinic systems as a seed from which we are expanding the minigrid.

While health clinics were the priority over the past year, we are no making effort to next serve nearby police stations, government buildings, and businesses - again hopefully maximizing on the benefit to everyone in the community.   In Mashai and Sehonghong we quickly built a few kilometers of medium voltage lines to transmit power to the nearest two schools.  These installations are the start of what will eventually reach also the households (over 9000 combined for our 10 minigrid sites under construction right now).  As part of this we had the official Sod Turning for the 10-community project, which was very exciting! There were a wide range of stakholders, including from the local community and from the central government, in attendance - and our team was even featured on TV in Lesotho!

It is incredibly exciting to see this all coming together:  starting from field surveys our team did on foot to map all of the buildings, to software put together by our engineering team to locate poles and lay out the transmission network, through procurement of 1000+ poles and miles of wire, and finally now with customers being added.  The excitement of everybody on the team for what we do is clear in their dedication to the work which is challenging in so many ways - but very worth it.

Sending best wishes for a very safe and happy holiday season,

-Matt

Sod Turning Event Setup
Sod Turning Event Setup
Community attendees at the Sod Turning
Community attendees at the Sod Turning
1PWR drill rig in action - prepping for poles
1PWR drill rig in action - prepping for poles
1PWR PV Tracker is complete!
1PWR PV Tracker is complete!
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PV panel mounting rack construction at Lebakeng
PV panel mounting rack construction at Lebakeng

Hello to everyone from winter here in Lesotho!

I am very excited to tell you - hot off the presses - that our team has finished the installation of the seventh (final!) clinic power system that was funded by USAID.  This work has made across-the-board improvements at all of the Partners-In-Health clinics in Lesotho, all seven of which serve the most remote of the population, including now ensuring around-the-clock power and enabling critical upgrades to PIH Electronic Medical Record systems.

Some of you may recall that Lebakeng, the final clinic, is located on the opposite side of the Senqu River from the paved road and is accessible essentially only by air and rowboat.  While our team has been working on building a crossing for construction vehicles to support the community-wide minigrid deployment later this year (picture below) we devised a method to move the equipment for the clinic piecewise to make sure it was completed as soon as possible.  After some delays due to exceptionally heavy rains this year, we were able to finally put the plan into action in June.

You will see in the photos the 1PWR team at work during installation of the new PV panel array and familiarizing the Clinic staff with the new system - and a beauty shot of the final PV array after completion!

I am incredibly proud of this milestone and the learning and expertise of the team as we have now completed this type of project seven times,  The gained expertise, efficiency, and competencies are all valuable assets that we take with us as we are already starting construction of our 10 community minigrids - which I will be sharing more about in the next update!

As always, an ongoing thank you from our team for your continued interest and support!

Best,

-Matt

Lebakeng power system complete!
Lebakeng power system complete!
Familiarizing PIH staff with new system, Lebakeng
Familiarizing PIH staff with new system, Lebakeng
Senqu River crossing construction underway
Senqu River crossing construction underway
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Ribaneng pitso part 1
Ribaneng pitso part 1

Hello and a very happy 2022 to everyone!

I am writing today with some exciting updates on our Minigrids projects. 

As you will recall, for each community where we are working, there are several steps that we follow.  The first is a coordination with the Government of Lesotho's Department of Energy and the UNDP - who is cosponsoring these efforts in Lesotho - to identify the communities best fit to be electrified using minigrids and to secure rights from the government to be the electricity provider in that location.  The second is to send a team out to the community to meet the community members and create a detailed map of the location (more details below).  The third converts the data collected in the community into a detailed engineering plan for the minigrid, and the fourth is construction!

In 2022 so far, our team has made progress on all of these points.  We have secured permits for all our sites, and excitingly, completed the last site survey at Ribaneng just this past month!  I am including a number of photos with this report to give you a flavor of what these visits are like for our team.  During the visits, which are typically about two weeks long, the Onepower team meets with small groups of community members in meetings called "pitsos" in Sesotho.  The pitsos are an opportunity for our team to explain to the communities about the project, the process, and the estimated timelines - i.e., how long until the lights will be switched on?  Our team also collected information about the community such as:  what are the GPS coordinates for every building?  how many people live in each building or, for buildings that are not houses, what is the use of each building?  which areas are appropriate or inappropriate for installation of infrastucture - for instance, cemetaries or areas of rocky outcropping that should be avoided in our engineering design?  In the photos you will also see some of the wonderful experiences we get to experience in rural Lesotho, a lightning but also rainbow capital, but one that has its own unique type of road rules.

Our dedicated team of software engineers has also been working hard on digitizing all of the data from the 10 community visits, converting these numbers and scribbled maps into the information needed to decide how many PV panels do we need?  where should we install poles?  how thick do we need the wires to be that run between the poles?  In essence, this is the step of converting the field data into an engineering design so we can start to lay out the sites and order components.

Finally our newly grown team of lineworkers - up to 25 now! - has started working on plans for construction.  Creating processes for laying out the sites - marking locations for poles, numbering poles and buildings, mapping the engineering plan onto the actual spaces in the community.  The first community where construction will begin will be Mashai - and I am looking forward to sending you updates on that progress in the next report!

With that I would like to extend another grateful set of thanks to all of you for your continued support over the years!  Best wishes for the coming months, whether that be spring or fall for each of you.

- Matt

Ribaneng pitso part 2
Ribaneng pitso part 2
Ribaneng pitso part 3
Ribaneng pitso part 3
Beautiful day in rural Lesotho
Beautiful day in rural Lesotho
Rural Lesotho traffic jam
Rural Lesotho traffic jam
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Construction at the Ha Nohana Clinic
Construction at the Ha Nohana Clinic

Happy November to everyone out there - I hope that the arrival of fall (or spring!) is treating everyone well this year.

We have so much to report right now from Lesotho that I just want to let the pictures tell you the story of all the hard work the team has been doing.  You heard last time about the start of our work powering a number of health clinics in Lesotho, and I am excited to report that we have now finished installing solar PV energy systems at 6 clinics in the most rural parts of Lesotho.  You'll see in the photos that most of these clinics are high up in the mountains, and our team spent approximately 7-10 days at each of them to complete these systems, from breaking ground to commissioning.  We are now operating these six systems as part of our Independent Power Producer (utility) portfolio alongside the Ha Makebe village system - we even have internet-linked dashboards that give us continuous updates on the power generation and conumption, battery voltages, and other system health indicators!

The 7th - and will be final - clinic that we will be upgrading as part of this USAID-funded project is the biggest challenge of them all.  Lebakeng is located on the far side of the Senqu (Orange) River from the paved road, and there is literally no way to reach it by vehicle other than by a small plane (there is a tiny airstrip at the Health Clinic).  This makes construction of any sort a challenge, and over the past several months our team has been exploring a number of alternative ways to overcome this (literal) obstacle.  The solution we have selected creates both more work and more benefit for the community - starting this week (!) the Onepower team will be deployed to Lebakeng to build a low-level river crossing and connecting road that will allow our construction vehicles and supplies to reach the clinic.  To maximize the impact of this effort, we have applied for and been granted approval from the Department of Roads to construct this as a permanent crossing, meaning that for the very first time in history this village will be connected by road to the rest of the country.  We are incredibly excited to be undertaking this work and look forward to sending photos of that project in the next report.

Finally, one last point of interest to mention.  Some of you might know that right now the 26th UN Climate Change Conference is happening in Glasgow.  On behalf of Onepower I was invited to speak at one of the sessions of this conference, working to raise awareness of the challenges and potential solutions for enabling minigrid development to serve remote communities - just like we are doing in Lesotho.  This approach is finally starting to gain visibility and traction as a viable path forward, and it is incredibly exciting to be on the forefront of that!

As you will not be hearing from me again before the end of the year, here is wishing everyone safe, happy, and healthy adventures in the coming festive season.

Best,

Matt

View of the nearby mountains from Ha Nohana
View of the nearby mountains from Ha Nohana
Nohana installation nears completion
Nohana installation nears completion
View from Methalaneng Clinic
View from Methalaneng Clinic
Methalaneng ground mount post installation
Methalaneng ground mount post installation
Methalaneng Clinic - almost ready for panels!
Methalaneng Clinic - almost ready for panels!

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Solar container on 1PWR truck
Solar container on 1PWR truck

Hello again from Lesotho,

Today I am excited to tell you about a project that Onepower started last year with funding from USAID and in collaboration with Partners In Health.  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID initiated a relief program intended to improve the ability of rural clinics to serve their constituents.  Onepower proposed to work with Partners In Health, a fantastic organization based out of Boston that operates 7 of the very most rural clinics in Lesotho.  

The 7 health clincs include Nkau and Nohana (Ketane) in Mohale’s Hoek, Tlhanyaku in Mokhotlong, Manamaneng, Methalaneng and Bobete located in Thaba-Tseka and Lebakeng in Qacha’s Nek district. All facilities are located in villages that are off the grid and that will not receive a grid connection over the next 10-20 years, according to projections by the national utility and Lesotho’s Ministry of Energy. The 7 facilities serve a population of 120,000 primarily subsistence farmers, providing comprehensive health care services including out-patient, HIV/TB care, maternal and child health, and family planning services. In an average year these clinics receive 53,556 out-patients, care for 5,100 HIV patients, provid pre/post-natal care for; 3,495 women, and tend 949 deliveries.  Each clinic is actually more like a small compound, with an average of 22 health care staff and 170 village workers each, including staff housing and housing for patients who may have to walk 10-12 hours to reach the facilities.

Since January our team has completed the first 4 of these installations, each representing a unique adventure and challenge due to the rural location of the clinics, the poor access roads, and the sometimes freezing winter temperatures.  For these systems we are using a containerized solution that lets us get the clinics powered as quickly as possible.  You'll see in the photos, when the team leaves Maseru, the truck carrying the container looks like any other shipment, but once they arrive on site, the work begins to dig foundations for ground-mounted PV panels, assemble container-mounted panels, and complete the system wiring that connects that PV panels, the batteries, and the clinic buildings.  On average each of these installations takes the team only about a week!  Although certainly that is not including the time ahead for planning, logistics, and travel (driving to some of these sites can take 10-12 hours in the truck carrying the container!).

I am also including some photos of the construction process, what it looks like inside that container, and the finished product!  So you can see how this really transforms the clinic and how our team makes it happen.  USAID also commissioned a video on the project which I am linking below - it does an excellent job of showing how the process (almost literally) unfolds and how this enables the operations at the health centers.

We are looking forward to getting the last 3 systems installed in the coming months and - over the next 12 months - expanding the minigrids at a few of these locations to the surrounding communities as part of our overall minigrid deployment work.

Wishing everyone a healthy continuation of 2021.

Matt

Construction at Manamaneng
Construction at Manamaneng
Construction at Bobete
Construction at Bobete
Inside the container at Ha Nkau
Inside the container at Ha Nkau
Completed installation at Tlhanyaku Health Center
Completed installation at Tlhanyaku Health Center

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STG International

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
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Project Leader:
Matthew Orosz
Dr.
Cambridge, MA United States
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