Solar pilot project brings power to the people in informal settlements

By Laura Carvalho, CORC

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CORC has partnered with the University of Stellenbosch’s Sustainability Institute (SI) and Specialized Solar Systems (SSS) in a pilot project that will test an incremental and innovative approach to introducing solar energy into poor urban communities whilst creating income-generation and economic opportunities via sustainable energy business hubs.

The pilot project is currently underway in two informal settlements, Ekanini (Stellenbosch) and Siyahlala (Phillipi) and seeks to conduct a field trial of an innovative starter solar energy kit that not only has been customized for poor shack households but that also entails the training of barefoot solar engineers and energy spaza. The purpose is to provide a business-based service for the ongoing maintenance and repair and upgrade of the starter solar systems.

Last week the theoretical part of the training was completed, and community trainees got the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and install a few solar units. What a moment it was for all present on the day – when the lights literally went on in each of these shacks!

Through this partnership, the newly trained barefoot solar engineers and households identified to form part of the field trial have an opportunity to test the DC micro-grid system developed by SSS, as a solution to providing clean and renewable energy services to improve their quality of life, while also creating the space for entrepreneurial and community development.

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Community members were trained by the Stellenbosch Sustainability Institute as barefoot engineers