Sunlabob expands renewable energy access in Africa with three off-grid solar projects
Wednesday, Dec 12, 2012
Sunlabob, the Laos-based social enterprise specializing in renewable energy and clean water projects in developing regions, has concluded the equipment installation and hands-on training of local community members for three turn-key solar power projects in off-grid communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Mozambique. The ten installations in total – funded by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) –are enabling a reliable electricity supply for a variety of uses, ranging from agricultural entrepreneurship to more robust internet and radio communications.
“The wide-ranging benefits of reliable, clean energy in these off-grid communities are undeniable,” said Andy Schroeter, founder and CEO, Sunlabob. “Rural electrification is opening new doors to improved local economies, better healthcare and greater education opportunities, largely in thanks to UNIDO and other public-private partnerships of this nature.”
Less than 10 percent of rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, while the overall population of this region has an access rate below 25 percent, according to World Bank figures.
Embedding two of its engineering and community training experts in these three nations for three months, Sunlabob completed the design and installation of the solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, as well as conducted maintenance and usage training with community members to build awareness and understanding to enable longevity of the systems.
Sierra Leone – Enabling Agricultural Entrepreneurship
Sunlabob installed three solar PV plants totaling 53 kW in three industrial growth centers in the Sierra Leone villages of Bo, Kpandebu and Pujehun. Each centre provides agricultural entrepreneurship training and development for rural youth and young adults in underprivileged communities. Enabled with a steady supply of electricity, the centers are now able to utilize computers, internet and other communications to improve education opportunities and learn skills applicable to building up Sierra Leone’s local economy, including wood and metalworking, tailoring, community development skills and literacy.
“Electrification through renewable energy not only acts as a gateway to better livelihoods for off-grid communities, but also helps create a mindset in these communities that clean, renewable power is a reliable, affordable, and ultimately, preferable source of energy that can catalyze positive change,” added Schroeter.
Liberia – Facilitating Industrial Skills and Training
Sunlabob installed a 20 kW solar PV system to supply clean, reliable energy to the Rubber Science Technology Institute, which focuses on training locals with rubber processing skills. The rubber sector is an integral part of Liberia’s economy, making up more than 60 percent of the country’s exports.
Additionally, Sunlabob provided 15 kW of solar energy for an industrial training centre in the town of Ganta that is providing both youth and adults with important education and training for industrial skills that will enable more job opportunities.
Mozambique – Equipping Customs Office with Improved Communications
Realizing the need for modern, reliable and robust communications capabilities at border customs offices in Mozambique, UNIDO and Sunlabob worked together to design and install solar PV systems at four customs offices, allowing more reliable internet, radio and telecommunications.
Sunlabob also partnered with UNIDO to supply and install PV generators to complete a hybrid power station in Chicualacuala, one of Mozambique’s most isolated districts in the country.
Sunlabob in Africa
The recent projects are not Sunlabob’s first venture into Africa. The company has enabled solar-powered electrification of rural areas in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Guinea Bissau and also established a Solar Lantern Rental System (SLRS) community-based enterprise in a remote area of Uganda. Sunlabob is also currently working with The World Bank to bring electricity to more than 60 schools throughout Uganda.