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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
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:

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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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Makoanyane trains the 8th minigrid customer
Makoanyane trains the 8th minigrid customer

Hello everyone,

I am happy to share one final update from Lesotho in this calendar year!  For this report I would like to focus on the progress at Ha Makebe, Lesotho's very first commercial minigrid which Onepower has been operating since earlier this year.

To date I am happy to report that the minigrid has so far delivered almost 1MWh of energy to the pilot customers in Ha Makebe with operational uptime of 98% - numbers we are very proud of for a unique first-time system.  In addition, we brought the 8th customer online in December!  It has been exciting so far to interact with the customers, see how they are using the electricity, and watch my team grow and take ownership of this achievement and responsibility.

We are also excited to announce that Onepower is the preferred bidder for 8 minigrid sites to be supported by a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initaitive for minigrid development in Lesotho.  We hosted their Investment Team at Ha Makebe earlier this month (photo below), and we are very positive about the upcoming negotiation phase and being involved in this effort!

Thank you again for all of your ongoing support and interest!  I hope that everyone has had a wonderful year of 2019, and sending you all wishes for happy holidays and a happy new year.

Best,

Matt

UNDP Investment Committee visits Ha Makebe
UNDP Investment Committee visits Ha Makebe
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Community meeting with the Onepower team
Community meeting with the Onepower team

Hello again there folks,

Short update from Lesotho to catch you all up!  We're at an exciting stage with our projects, in productive conversations with the stakeholders and government here in Lesotho to get permits and contracts in place:  holding community meetings (you'll see one in the photos), completing environmental assessments, and designing energy systems.

We also had a team of fantastic Energy Access Fellows with us in Lesotho for the past several months:  Mamaswatsi, Ruitian, Rohan, and Bahla.  Our Fulbright Fellow Erika also wrapped up her time and project with us. Attached is a photo of a team dinner while everyone was still in town.

Mamaswatsi and Ruitian, working with team members Makoanyane and Kubutu, conducted surveys at several communities throughout Lesotho - communities identified to be part of an upcoming UNDP project to build 10 minigrids across the country.  They spent some cold nights up in the highlights to collect data on the people, buildings, and environments making up some of these communities.  Back in Maseru Rohan put his economics studies to work upgrading Onepower's minigrid design tool to better model the range of funding options that we foresee in the future.  Bahla, an engineer starting graduate school this September, prototyped new capabilities for Onepower's smart meters, working toward the first version that can be used for energy delivery in addition to energy monitoring.

Erika wrapped up a very productive 9 months of studying Productive Uses of Electricity (PUE) - identifying ways that Onepower can support development of businesses and other productive activities in the communities we serve.  As part of this work she surveyed communities to find out what types of businesses individuals would like to start - everything from butcheries to piggeries to internet cafes - as well as understanding what types of equipment these businesses would need.  This is critical in developing pipelines for small business loans and other support structures for these would-be entrepreneurs.

And we've been making upgrades to the new space all along the way - including having our lathe delivered from our old partner's facility in Bethel to Ha Thetsane (picture here for you all to see).

 

Wishing you all a pleasant September!

-Matt

Team dinner at Number 7
Team dinner at Number 7
Lathe in the new space at Ha Thetsane
Lathe in the new space at Ha Thetsane
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Panorama of the new Onepower Headquarters !
Panorama of the new Onepower Headquarters !

Hello again from Lesotho!

It's been three months now of operations at the Ha Makebe minigrid, and things are going well.  We've been learning a lot (including a few late-night trips out to check meters before we realized that sometimes rain clouds just interferes with communications!), and the community containues to be excited about the service.  Our 8 customers are consistently using power, reloading their prepay accounts, and sending us good feedback.  Our team is thrilled watching this run, and we are hard at work with the final permitting to start construction for service to the rest of the community.

In other exciting news, Onepower moved to our recently-renovated Headquarters, a factory shell managed by the Leostho National Development Corporation (LNDC), the Lesotho government agency whose mission is to foster domestic economic and industrial growth.  We are in the early stages of outfitting the offices, setting up the electronics (electricity meters) manufacturing, setting up the machine shop, etc. - but it is already feeling and looking like our new home. 

A few pictures below - those of you who have been following along for some years may recognize the aluminum legs on our conference table as parts we used in a manufacturing frame for an early design of our STG solar concentrator.  It's truly unique to OnePower and gives character to the place where we invite partners to meetings.

The development of the 20MW Project is still progressing - right now we are on track to start construction in late 2019 or early 2020, and you will all be hearing more about that as soon as we have news and pictures to share!

Hoping that everyone is having a healthy and prosperous 2019 so far, and thank you again for your continued interest and support.

Best,

Matt

Late night check on electricity meters at Makebe
Late night check on electricity meters at Makebe
Weekly group meeting at the new conference table
Weekly group meeting at the new conference table
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Organization Information

STG International

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Matthew Orosz
Dr.
Cambridge, MA United States
$28,780 raised of $40,000 goal
 
303 donations
$11,220 to go
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