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Rural East Africa Benefits From Solar Power Programs

With the help of Italian conservation organization Oikos, a rural village in Tanzania has embraced solar energy generation and consumption programs.

The conventional electricity is not yet available and all businesses and houses are still of the grid. Village residents gradually assumed greater involvement in the project and eventually took the leading role in the new solar panel business.

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The Community Energy Center sells varying sized solar cells to community members and businesses ranging from 20 to 140 watts. Options also exist for batteries to store the power captured by the cells.

Oikos staff stay in touch with the program, but have nothing to do with it at this point. With the proper set up, available materials, and a technician who can repair broken parts — the project is now running as its own business.

“I want to buy two more,” said Lumanyaki Simion, a local business owner.

The music from his bar and restaurant blares out the door. The blue writing set against a light orange exterior paint above the entrance reads “Wakulima Bar.”

Before he bought the 140 watt solar cell from the center, the Wakulima Bar was not so loud. Now it is like many other East African bars. The “bartender” stands inside a cage with the television playing local music videos way too loud, and the booze is on shelves.

A small bar counter sits in-front of the cage with one intoxicated customer. The back opens up to a series of tables and a basic kitchen on the side that offers a handful of meal options.

Mr. Simion is a businessman. He bought the solar cells for his bar with cash and went on to buy two smaller ones for his own home, located a few hundred yards behind the bar.

As we arrived, he pointed out the two 20 watt cells on his roof. An LED light was illuminated out the front door, staying on all day long. Controls were located inside the house for charging the batteries.

He turned on his television and lights to show they work. Even through the rainy season the power stays on 24-hours a day. More cells will provide even better power at his home and new batteries will hopefully store more energy.

A boastful air fills his voice as he talks about the energy. As the US, World Bank and others commit to universal access to energy, people like Simion are seeking out other solutions to their power problems and are managing to thrive.

See the original story here.

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