Here are big news: EGG-energy installed its first solar home system on April 19th, 2012 in Ngenza, a village about 30km away from Iringa town!
I have been working with Mr. Said Kibwana, our local partner in charge of the Iringa franchise for the past month. This area has different particularities, which Mr. Kibwana shared with us, that led EGG to look into offering small-scale decentralized solar system installations:
- With altitude higher than 1,500 meters above sea level, Iringa is located in a mountainous region. The surrounding off-grid villages are located in either cloudy and rainy hills or in very sunny plains. Given this situation and considering both the remoteness and the difficult access of some villages, offering both battery-swapping services and individual solar systems installation & maintenance allows the EGG franchise in Iringa to provide services that can address the diverse needs of local residents.
- Many EGG potential customers are farmers. They do not have much capital available for large expenses, except on one or two occasions a year that coincide with the harvest season. Selling their harvest provides them with a large one-time income, and they usually spend a big part of it on different systems expected to improve their living conditions. At that time, they have enough money to afford individual solar installations, which are the preferred systems preferred of those that live in sunny areas.
- Mr Kibwana and I went to see existing solar installations. Most of them were broken or not working well. This sorry sight is the result of the absence of organizations that could provide good after sales services and good solar technicians to the Iringa area. Consequently, people are disappointed with this technology. The need for qualified technicians and follow up maintenance was strongly communicated by the local communities.
As a result of these observations, EGG-energy decided to design and offer solar home systems as an alternative to the battery swapping service for areas where this technology is appropriated. Because EGG is focused on providing electrical services to several customer segments, three solar options have been created, in the same way as we have designed several battery swapping systems:
- 15Wp Solar system: 1,2 or 3 LED low consumption bulbs, and possibility to charge a cell-phone.
- 40Wp Solar system: cell-phone charging businesses (up to 15 phones per day).
- 100Wp solar system: big color TV, 1 to 6 LED bulbs and possibility to charge a cell-phone.
Battery swapping customers and solar customers can benefit from all EGG services:
- Battery swapping customers: many of them don’t have the upfront capital to invest in solar systems directly. EGG gives them the opportunity to first buy a battery swapping service and later upgrade it to solar for a small additional fee.
- Solar customers: in case of extended cloudy and rainy weather (solar systems are designed to have an autonomy between 3 and 7 days), EGG offers to charge their battery for a small fee and provide them with a temporary one while theirs is being charged.
To help stimulate the local economy and keep costs within our customers’ affordability, we attempt to minimize our reliance on imported products. To that end, EGG decided to work with local metalworkers to have the solar system frames made in Iringa. After one week of work with them explaining EGG requirements, we arrived to a good prototype. A few more adjustments are needed to validate the final EGG frame design and start the standardized frame production in Iringa, but we’re off to a great start!
I will keep reporting from time to time on progress at the Iringa franchise with respect to new solar and battery swapping projects.