Solar HOPE Part 2: Installation in Lupembe
Monday, September 12, 2011
by: John Grieser, Student researcher, SolarWorld Americas
Yesterday we arrived in Lupembe, a small village about 50 km from Iringa in south-central Tanzania. It has a beautiful rocky landscape and a cool and dry climate, a welcome change from the hot and humid coastal capitol of Dar es Salaam.
In the center of the village is the medical dispensary. This dispensary serves all the residents of the neighboring villages – about 3000 in total. I got to meet the head doctor and explained to her the system we were installing. She was exceedingly thankful, and described to me how important the lights were. She pointed to the kerosene lanterns in the corner of the labor room, and explained how they are used at night when the women are giving birth. She says it’s frightening in the dark. The fuel is hard to source, and they are often without.
Lupembe medical dispensary
The system we begin to install is a small and simple system. Lighting for all 7 rooms, plus two outdoor lights for the main corridors, plus extra sizing for cell phone charging, radio and back up power for the medicine refrigerator which primarily runs on propane. All of this is powered by one solar panel and battery.
Upon beginning the installation I was quickly joined by the local schoolteacher, Goodluck. He teaches math at the primary school level. He was eager to help and offered to use his trigonometry to determine the proper sizing and positioning of the solar panel. Goodluck grew up in this village, and was born in this same medical clinic. I asked him if he knew anybody who had solar power, he said no. But he did know what it was, “from what I hear, it is the best.” He knew the importance of getting rid of kerosene lanterns and was especially excited to have a place to charge his phone near his home.
John Grieser (left) and colleague beginning solar panel install on dispensary
As we were conducting the install, more and more villagers arrived. When we showed up, it was just the doctor and a few patients. By the end, there were a hundred curious onlookers. Goodluck said more would come by night’s end, especially when they see the lights.
We finished the installation as the sun was setting; we put away our headlamps and flipped the first switch. That’s always the best moment of each install. They were no cheers, only smiles. Goodluck tried the radio, his favorite team, Manchester United was in the middle of a match. He said he couldn’t be happier.