The wind blasts our faces with sand at such a speed that almost brings tears to our eyes. We are in Lambatara, a village on Mali’s national highway. The passing cars kick up so much dust that, from a distance, Lambatara looks more like a mirage than a real village.
Lorenz Brellochs, our Technical Director (Hainburg), Mamadou Sall, our Technical Director (Niger) and a small team of technicians are here to work on the Solartainer. They do not have much time. Soon, they have to go to the next village to check the technical equipment.
Lambatara is one of the villages that clearly demonstrates the importance of the African diaspora.
Diaspora generally refers to an ethnic or denominational group whose members are scattered over large parts of the world and thus represent a religious or ethnic minority in numerous foreign cultural areas.
The largest diaspora from Lambatara is in France. Many Africans living abroad often have an intrinsic need to do something for their community in their home country and therefore invest in the “development” of their towns or villages.
In Lambatara, for example, it was possible to finance the entire power grid from diaspora funds.
The will and enthusiasm of not only the diaspora, but also the people in Lambatara, was enormous. A very highly respected doctor in the village acted as a trustee. He, with the help of others, collected deposits in the village from people interested in solar power from Africa GreenTec. The money was only paid to AGT when we actually turned on the electricity.
This not only ensured that Africa GreenTec would supply electricity to the residents, but also that we had enough electricity customers so that the project would pay for itself. As we have already reported in other village stories, the topic of “electricity projects” in sub-Saharan Africa is a rather tricky one in terms of trust. In many places, promises have been made by other companies and organizations and then simply not kept. This is why there is often a general lack of trust in this area.
One challenge we face in Lambatara is that many people have refrigerators, which leads to relatively high grid loads at certain times. Currently, our solar container can handle these, but our technical team has already developed new ideas in cooperation with our smart meter service provider as a precaution.
Since our power supply does not provide 24 hours of power, when it comes back on, the power is drawn from the peak power reserve. Sometimes the power is enough, because all households automatically and simultaneously draw power, but sometimes, it’s not.
To prevent this from happening, the starting currents of the meters have to be reduced and distributed. The technical team has therefore worked out how to stagger the start-up currents so that the individual households reactivate their power supply with a delay of a few seconds.
Thanks to modern technology and smart grid control, this was easy to implement and an important learning that prepared us well for the coming villages.
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