In July 2011, EGG-energy opened its first solar franchise in the village of Msanga. Pooya Nikooyeh wrote about the new station on July 24th, http://egg-energy.com/2011/07/our-first-solar-franchise/. He promised updates, so today I’d like to continue the story of EGG-energy in Msanga.
Msanga town is located at a dusty crossroads. There are a few shops, a place to eat cooked lunch, and an area for transport vehicles to load passengers and cargo. According to census data, in 2002 there were about 1,400 people living in and around Msanga town, and close to 6,000 in the entire ward. Travel to Msanga is significantly bumpier than to the EGG on-grid stations of Chanika and Mbgala. While the latter two can be accessed from Dar in under an hour of driving on good-quality paved roads, the road to Msanga is only paved for the first third of the journey, and takes at least two and a half hours to travel. Going is slow after the pavement ends, as there are many large holes in the road that force a driver to choose between a speedy trip and the health of his car.
Although Msanga is distant from a smooth road and the power grid, 22 households in the village have EGG-energy electricity. Using Tanzania’s bright sunlight and a solar charging unit developed by Schneider Electric’s BipBop design team, we can provide our customers in Msanga with essentially the same electricity service that we offer at the Chanika and Mbagala grid-based stations. The Msanga station has the added benefit of not having to worry about the frequent TANESCO (Tanzania’s national power utility) outages.
Solomon, Jamie and I journeyed to Msanga last Thursday to check up on the solar system, make a few minor repairs, and talk with Mbano, EGG’s franchisee. Mbano owns a small shop in the center of the town where he sells goods such as dry beans, rice, notebooks and bottles of fruit juice. He also runs a solar-powered mobile-phone charging business in his warehouse. Although few people in a rural village like Msanga have electricity in their homes (this is changing thanks to EGG!), most have a mobile phone. It is common for a town to have one or several businesses like Mbano’s where you can pay 300 Shillings (about 20 cents) to charge your cell phone. Since EGG-energy installed an additional solar panel on the roof in July, people now also go to Mbano’s store to swap our batteries.
At 22 customers, Msanga is considerably smaller than EGG’s other two stations, but as our first franchise, and first solar-powered station, it is doing well. With one 150W solar panel, the station is designed to serve up to roughly 25 customers, though the exact capacity depends on how frequently people swap the batteries. Our current estimate is based on customers swapping about one time per week, but we will adjust the projection as swap records reveal a more accurate picture of customer behavior. As the station adds new customers, or existing customers begin increasing their energy use and swapping frequency, we can add solar panels to increase capacity. We will continue to monitor progress in Msanga, to adjust the details of our operations there, and to use the lessons learned to refine our model for solar franchises in rural Tanzania.