Aug 2021

Hello ,

Imagine you live in a small village in Zambia where you have no connection to the electricity grid, but a mobile phone connection is possible. It is quite important to keep in touch with your friends, family but also, for example, with the merchants at the vegetable market in the city. However, a phone will not work if the battery is empty.

If you would like to provide a service where your neighbors can charge their phone for a small fee, then you have to go to the town to see what equipment you need.
Solar energy is the best option. Fortunately, there are many shops that sell solar equipment, but each retailer tells you a different story and the costs vary enormously. For example, there is someone who wants to sell you beautiful expensive batteries and a hybrid MPPT solar charger/inverter. Someone else from a small shop advises you to just connect the phone to a solar panel with some wires. Someone else talks about a PWM charge controller in which there are two USB connectors. That together with a small solar panel would be enough to charge phones.

You don't really get any wiser from all this advice. It seems that every shopkeeper wants to sell his own equipment to you and makes up “good” arguments for it.

The result is that you buy something that you may later regret or return to your village empty-handed.
There are many opportunities for people in villages to set up a small business if they have access to electricity. Or what about children who want to study after 6 p.m. when the sun is down? In town, the power supply is also not always stable. Last year, Zambia had no electricity for literally half days, because there was too little water in the hydro dam. Fortunately Zambia recently had a good rainy season and the problems have been solved, but what if the next rainy season is bad again?

In Zambia every town has some shops that sell solar equipment. But no body can give you good and honest advice on what to buy.
The design of a solar system mainly depends on the users requirements, such as:
  • How much energy do you need?
  • How much of it during the day and how much of it when the sun is down?
  • What is the peak load?
  • Can you do without alternating current (AC) or do you have devices that require common mains voltage?
  • Where do you want to safely mount the solar panels?
With the answers to these questions experts can design a system. This must then be weighed against what is available in the shops and a proper cost/quality ratio must be chosen.
Jacana has been able to train a number of electricians in a pilot project. A PUM expert has provided online training. The first result was the solar system in the new Jacana business center.

We have learned a lot from this pilot. Among other things, we learned that not all existing electricians have the flexibility and take the essential difference between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) seriously. Unfortunately, some easily fall back into wires that are too thin or twist cables together as they do in their everyday work on mains voltage. As a result, dangerous situations can arise in solar systems, even if we limit ourselves to "low voltage systems" for the time being. In the end, after the pilot, only one of the three electricians remained.
Hastings Mbewe completed the pilot with success.
The success of this electrician (Hastings) is evident and under the guidance of Jacana he has already given some advice and installed systems, but some competition is desirable.
Jacana wants to use the lessons from the pilot project to train and guide entrepreneurs in this new sector. In the water sector, we know how to introduce and scale up new technologies. We will also do the same in the renewable energy sector.
We are still looking for enthusiastic partners who want to work with us. Are you interested or do you know someone who would like to set this up with us, please contact us (you can simply reply to this newsletter).
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