05/14/15

Empowered by Light

Rex Grantee Transforms African School, Village With Solar Power

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We’re very pleased to share this update from recent grantee Empowered by Light about its work in Zambia:

We are currently installing a 10kW solar-powered micro grid at the headquarters of Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ), a conservation education center located several hours south of Lusaka in the Chiawa Game Management Area of Zambia. 

CLZ provides environmental protection and awareness training to all the schools in the wildlife-rich region as well as to potential safari and tour guides. CLZ also helps patrol the Lower Zambezi National Park to protect wildlife from poachers, and supports the Zambian Wildlife Authority in its efforts to reduce human/wildlife conflict in the heavily game-populated area.

school with solar power in Zambia

The Mugurameno School, where EBL will build a solar micro grid funded in part by a Rex grant.

CLZ is our official partner organization in this part of Zambia, and will help provide maintenance and operations support for the additional micro grids we install in the region as well as providing introductions to local community leaders and government officials.

But that’s not all… We recently received our largest grant contribution to date! With this grant, along with support from the Rex Foundation, Zanaco Bank in Zambia, Sungevity, Trina Solar and many generous individual donors, we have just approved and plan to build our third solar-powered micro grid in Zambia this summer! Our third system will be built at Mugurameno Basic School which serves nearly 600 students. The Mugurameno micro grid will use a new design–one which we hope further reinforces the long-term economic viability and sustainability of micro grid deployment in rural Africa. Under this new design, the school will receive free power from the system, but we will sell excess power to surrounding community members whose homes are connected to the grid by subterranean power lines. 

village house in Zambia

One of the village houses whose residents will receive free electricity from the micro grid at Mugurameno School

Our hope is that this new model will further demonstrate that companies can successfully and profitably deploy micro grids on a commercial basis–helping electrify rural Africa, but also improve the well being of communities by providing schools and/or medical clinics with free power.

We are also pleased to report that our 24kW micro grid at Sioma High School continues to provide consistent clean, renewable energy to the more than 600 students at Sioma High School. In fact, the entire campus has been running 100 percent on the solar- and battery-powered system we built for them in 2013! 

The micro grid is dramatically changing the lives of the students who attend Sioma High School. In addition to dramatically improved test scores, students credit the micro grid with enabling them to improve their school’s standing in the national debate program as well as their ranking in other regional and national competitive academic teams. They also tell us they’re much happier with the improvements in sanitation, such as the fully-functioning toilets and showers they now enjoy, and school officials have informed us that campus safety has improved due to the lighting upgrades we made when we installed the solar micro grid.

What was once one of the poorest performing and least-desirable schools in the country is now sought after and gaining prestige.