Hello again everyone,
Time for another update from Lesotho! It has been a busy several months, particularly on the planning side, so I thought I would take this opportunity to give you a window into the behind-the-scenes efforts required to design community energy systems.
This year we have been developing a portfolio of designs for about 15 off-grid communities in Lesotho, as part of an integrated initiative we are working on with the Renewable Energy Division of the government. Once approved and funded, we envision these will be the very first full communities served by STG power systems at that scale, and they will be managed by our Lesotho-based spinoff OnePower, which we have incorporated to act as Lesotho's very first rural energy utility. At the moment Lesotho is working through some changes to the regulations to facilitate this type of energy delivery (instead of requiring each home, school, and clinic to own and operate its own diesel generator or PV panels), but we have been busily preparing plans for the next steps at the same time.
The first step was identifying villages of an adequately large size (50-100 houses) that are within reasonable access of paved roads as the first potential customers. After this, we find the village on google maps and print out a large poster of the satellite image of the village, where we can see the tops of each building against the surrounding land (you'll see one of these images at the end of this email). Then our team heads out to the village to talk to people who live there, systematically identifying each building as a house, business, animal shed, clinic, school, or church and making notations about how many people live, work, or frequent each place. You'll see with this email our team at Makebe Village during that site survey, and the final photo shows the map with all of their annotations and labels.
We then use this information to estimate what size of power system such a village would require using custom microgrid design software called uGrid built by our team over the past few years, as well as developing an optimized (lowest overall cost) layout for how to connect all of the buildings with electrical wires. The last map image shows what we estimate this would look like for Makebe, where the green dots show you each customer (house or business) while the red and green lines show wiring paths. The yellow triangle shows where the power plant will be sited, which is actually right next to the Makebe school.
While each of the villages we have visited is special, I chose today to show you pictures of Makebe because the Makebe school is the site of our first pilot microgrid I have mentioned in the past, which we are rolling out in the coming months to have a fully functional demonstration in preparation for roll-out of full community systems. (The white outline will be the first step.) This month our team is putting the finishing touches on the tracking PV module for that installation, validating our GSM-linked electricity meters, and testing the backup power management, and I look forward to sending you photos of that installation in the next update!
Wishing all of you happy celebrations as we enter this holiday season, and sending many thanks from our team for your continued interest in and support for our work.
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