Why sit in the Dark? Get a Solar Backup!

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There is nothing worse than the power going out when you need it most, whether it is at home or work.  Power cuts disrupts our daily lives…we cannot get work done, our children cannot study, our food spoils, we miss our favourite T.V shows and, most importantly, our homes are less safe.

There is no need to dread going home because you know the power will be cut and you don’t want to sit in the dark…you can buy a backup or solar-backup system.

Before I installed my solar-backup system my life was miserable.  The worst part of it was knowing the power was going to cut and trying to decide what to do while I waiting for it to come back on…that is until I learned about installing a backup system.

I first started with a Barefoot Power 5w PowaPack.  It was a simple, “plug and play” system with four lights, phone charging and it could also play a small radio.  I put two lights in my living room, one in the corridor and one in the kitchen.  The PowaPack ensured we had a nice bright light at night for less than 200,000 Tsh.

After installing the PowaPack I decided to install a 15w Home Lighting System to provide security lights outside of the house.  I installed the panel on the roof, the two tube lights on the outside walls under the facia board away from the rain, the motion sensor light near the gate and the additional two LED lights in the two bedrooms.  It was very comforting to have lights on when the power was cut as it let everybody know that we were home.  For less than 400,000 Tsh the system was worth the money.

15w solar panel and tube light with switch wire

This year I finally decided to invest in a larger solar backup system.  This system was much larger than my previous systems, having a 1500w inverter/charger with 400 amp hours of battery back.

240 Watt solar panels provide charging during the day

the charge controller indicating the solar is charging the batteries and the status of the batteries

The benefit of the solar backup is that the 240 watts of solar power allows us to use power all day while keeping the batteries topped up for use in the night.  The inverter/charger is integrated into my main switch so when the grid power cuts the system automatically switches over to the backup system with no interruption in the power supply.

Inverter turns on automatically when the power cuts

Charger automatically charges the batteries when the power comes back on

The solar backup system is powerful enough to run my outside security lights, lights inside the house, ceiling fans, 32” T.V, DSTV, DVD player, two laptops and internet modem.

The power cuts is no longer an issue at home. In fact, I rarely notice when the power is cut.  We also installed a slightly larger system in our office and work is no longer disrupted.

Inverter/charger sitting on top of the battery box

Whether it is a smaller system to provide some light in your home or security light outside, or a larger system to be integrated with your current A/C grid connected system I hope my story has helped you realize that you don’t have to accept darkness.  You can invest in solar and solar backup systems.

World Bank Visits Charcoal Briquettes Project

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World Bank visitors Waqar Haider, Sector Leader – Sustainable Development, and Jing Li, Economist for the Africa Energy Group, meeting charcoal briquette producers

ARTI-TZ  welcomed visitors from the World Bank responsible for the Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA).  Waqar Haider, Sector Leader – Sustainable Development, and Jing Li, Economist for the Africa Energy Group, conducted the first visits to monitor the progress of the BEIA project in Tanzania on the 15th and 16th of August.  The project, “Production of Charcoal Briquettes in Tanzania” recently completed training & equipping 360 people in 12 villages in Bagamoyo District, the first of four Districts to receive the training.

Nachiket Potnis, Executive Director of ARTI-TZ, Kennedy Mremi, Lead Trainer and James Mariwa, Trainer, joined the World Bank visitors.

The first day activities included a visit to the World Bank’s country office and the offices of the Rural Energy Agency (REA) in Dar es Salaam and to the villages which have already received training in Bagamoyo District.  During the village visits the team was able to meet village councils and participants that have already received training.

Waqar Haider watching as a charcoal kiln is being fabricated

On the second day, Nachiket accompanied the World Bank team to Mlandizi Village in Kibaha District where a training was in progress.   Visiting a training in progress allowed the team to see the training methodology first hand.  Mr. Haider and Ms. Li provided valuable encouragement for the progress made with the trainings and constructive comments that will certainly help guide our team as we work towards the commercialization of charcoal briquettes in Tanzania.

Jing Li photographs participants fabricating kilns

The visit concluded with a visit to the ARTI-TZ office in Mbezi Beach, Dar es Salaam where the ARTI-TZ  team had time to discuss with Mr. Haider and Ms. Li on ways the commercialization of charcoal briquettes could be further invigorated.  From the discussion the main priority was to ensure trainings prioritized business skills for the villages producing briquettes.  It was suggested to encourage some producers to play an additional role as “District Champions” to help coordinate producers and to help make those producers viable for larger partners.  ARTI-TZ reaffirmed its commitment as an innovation broker tasked with tackling bottlenecks in the value chain, particularly with creating briquetting capacity and generating consumer demand for charcoal briquettes in urban areas where charcoal consumption is high.

Waqar Haider and Jing Li discussing commercialization of charcoal briquettes with Dennis Tessier of ARTI-TZ

The World Bank monitoring visit was timely as ARTI-TZ is completing monitoring and evaluation after completing training in Bagamoyo District.  The observations and recommendations will be incorporated within the projects first M&E report.

360 Villagers Trained and Equipped to Produce Charcoal Briquettes

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Women participants prepare char powder for briquetting

ARTI-TZ completed sustainable charcoal briquettes training in Bagamoyo District this past July making the District the first of four in Coast Region to receive intensive training on charcoal kiln fabrication, charring of dry biomass, briquetting and promotion of charcoal briquettes.

The training is made possible with the support of the World Bank’s Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA) and with the partnership with the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT), Forestry and Bee Keeping Department and District Authorities.

Kiln fabrication in Magomeni Village, Bagamoyo District

The MNRT assisted ARTI-TZ with introductory letters of support to District Councils, who in turn provided direct support through the District Forest Officer, Joseph J. Msaki.  The DFO assisted with providing an overview of deforestation in the District as well as priority areas for training to take place.  In addition to the technical support the DFO proved to be a valuable resource in meeting Village Councils, travelling with the ARTI-TZ team to visit short listed villages from which a total of 12 villages were selected.

The first briquettes of a training are made

In all, a total of 360 participants in 12 Villages were trained.  Each village trained had 30 participants  comprised of  men and women farmers, charcoal producers, business people, teachers and Village Council members. The 12 villages trained are Lugoba, Pingo, Kikaro, Mbwewe, Msata, Dunda, Magomeni, Kiromo, Vigwaza, Kerege and Makurunge.

Bagamoyo, being the first of four Districts, allowed the ARTI-TZ trainers to hone their skills and modify their approach to training.  For example, the larger kiln was replaced with a smaller more efficient kiln.  This not only increased the speed of charcoal production, but better utilized the dry biomass and allowed for 5 kilns to be produced rather than three.

Villagers monitoring the progress of their charcoal kiln

As part of our efforts to commercialize charcoal briquettes we are putting emphasis on monitoring and evaluation activities.  Carla Acosta, an intern from York University in Toronto, Canada participated in two trainings, and following the trainings worked with Lulu Mwammenywa from ARTI-TZ, to conduct M&E of the villages trained.  Several lessons were learned from the M&E including the need to streamline the training to provide more time for training on business skills, commercialization, ways in which trainers could have greater gender inclusion, and the need for more hand tools to speed up the fabrication process.

Participants packing dried charcoal briquettes

In order to ensure the villages continue to commercialize their technology, two interns from ARDHI University – School of Environmental Science and Technology, Edgar Lisso and Mwinyi Abdulkadir, have joined the ARTI-TZ team to assist villages in the initial stages of adopting the new technology and to develop “District Champions” who can work to coordinate villages producing charcoal powder and briquettes making them more efficient and viable for larger investment.

The entire team would like to thank all the stakeholders who have made the training in Bagamoyo possible.  We hope to build on this success as we conduct training in Kibaha, Kisararwe and Mkuranga Districts.

If you are interesting in charcoal briquette training or setting up a briquetting plant in Dar es Salaam using char powder produced by the villages we have trained, please contact dennis@arti-africa.org.

Brighter Lives for Pinga Primary School students

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Teachers and Students at Pinga Primary School posing with their new solar lights

On July 13th, 2011 a group of students helped offload boxes full of solar lights enter one of the class rooms of Pinga Primary School in Kerege, Bagaymoyo District, Tanzania.  The teachers and students gladly received the 100 Barefoot Power Pack Junior donated by Dissigno Tanzania, which is the affiliate of Dissigno USA, based in San Francisco, California . The lights are portable and therefore can be carried home by the students and used as a safe reliable source of light that they can use to do their homework or other activities.  In addition to the having safe light the solar lanterns will help the school to generate an income which will be a needed to improve its facilities.

A committee member organizes the lights, solar panels and batteries

In the office there is a list for the number of desks, tables, books, and so on that the school needs and how much money they need in order to buy it.  To reach their target, the lights will be rented out to the students for 100 tsh per day (Approximately 6 cents US per day) and 200 tsh per day on the weekend.  The lights will be stored and charged on school grounds where they can be easily managed.

Carla Acosta, a Canadian intern with ARTI, poses with a teacher and their bouquets of solar lamps

In order to coordinate the charging centre and manage the money a committee was formed of both students and teachers. The students that were selected by the teachers to be part of the committee are Hafidhi Ambali (VII), Pili Zuberi (VI), Neema Mtugani (VII), Joyce Johni (VII), and Ali Ngozi (V). The teachers are David Mbogela, Singano Rajabu, and the principal Halima Salumu.

ARTI-TZ Executive Director, Nachiket Potnis, explains technical details in Kiswhili to committee members

Setting up the solar lights was a collaboration of three American volunteers Eric, Oliva, and Hana representing Dissigno Tanzania, Carla Acosta from Canada, along with all the members of the committee. During the preparation the students and teachers were taught by Nachiket Potnis, Executive Director of ARTI-TZ , how to use and maintain the solar lights.

ARTI Participates in Public Service Week

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ARTI-TZ  joined the Rural Energy Agency (REA) the week of June 16th to 23rd, to demonstrate and promote their work as part of Public Service week. The main event  took place in the Mnazi Mmoja grounds, a busy area in the heart of downtown of Dar es Salaam. The event is organized every year by the Ministry of Public Services, where all the Ministries and their various divisions display to the public their activities.

Abdalla Seushi, ARTI-TZ Project Officer, explains renewable energy technologies to the public

During the week long exhibition, the Ministry of Public Services select an unanimous group to visit all the booths and select the best one according to the best overall display and explanation for their products.  This year the Rural Energy Agency (REA) selected ARTI-TZ, ORYX Gas, African Women in Mining Network Tanzania, ENVOTEC, Power Electronics and Controls LTD, and ENSOL (T) Limited to participate for this event because they share REAs mission is to help bring energy into rural areas of Tanzania.

Neema Lema explaining how the compact biogas system works

ARTI Team members, included Neema Lema , Abdalah M. Seushi, Carla Acosta and Godson Mghamba were constantly busy talking to visitors that were intrigued by ARTI-TZ products.   According to Neema Lema, one of ARTI’s newest team members, people were mostly curious about the biogas, commenting “most people know about biogas systems that use cow dung and are very surprised and intrigued to see the Compact Biogas Systems that uses food waste.”   The charcoal briquettes made from dry biomass were also of big interest to many visitors according to Neema Lema.  Neema says,  “so many people think that the charcoal is like a miracle because they thought charcoal could only come from trees”.  While ARTI demonstrated solar, charcoal briquettes and biogas, other organizations demonstrated small electric wind turbines, commercial and domestic stoves,  a micro-hydro power plants, and technology that stored energy.

ARTI's Godson Mghamba holds the Public Service Week trophy high after winning best pavilion 2011

The biggest reward of Public Service Week came on the last day of the exhibition REA was announced the winner for the 2011 Public Service Week. REA received a trophy and at the same time ARTI-TZ received special recognition.

Story by: Carla Acosta, York University (Toronto, Canada) Intern working with ARTI-Africa