Posted by: Mitch Silver | March 24, 2010

Village Lighting Installation

After 10 days I am very pleased to be able to say we’ve had success beyond our expectations. Social organization within the village was very smooth and productive although village meetings in Nepal require significant patience.

There were three days of initial meetings

Transport to and from the village required four arduous trips.  Each trip took an entire day with a long bus ride, hours on a worn out overcrowded jeep with virtually no suspension and 3 to 4 hours of hiking. Perhaps ironically I had picked the area for its ease of access, but much of village Nepal is much more difficult to get to.  Initial conceptual and organizational meetings involved the entire village, and other meetings were held with the village leaders and or the mothers group over three days. These meeting were a group effort with Prem, Ganga, Nobuko and myself all playing important roles. Prem and I then travelled to Damauli where I had shipped the solar panels, batteries and accessories. The next day we reserved a jeep with the solar equipment and the lanterns and returned to Namarkhu village.

Mounting and wiring the photovoltaic system was done in a few hours

The "charge house" - daily drops offs and pickup of the lanterns happen here

Installation of the panels was done in a day. This involved buying some 10 ft. hardwood beams and sawing them longitudinally creating two supports – one for each of the two solar photovoltaic panels, attaching the solar panel support mounts, and then securely attaching these beams to the existing house structure. We then mounted the panels and wired all the components. The solar system can easily charge 12 lanterns a day and perhaps significantly more. The systems charging capacity will require a learning curve depending on the time of year and the weather which will determine the amount of sunlight hours per day. By design, the system should have enough capacity to charge the

lanterns with little or no sunlight for 3 days. The large solar battery was enclosed in a locked box for safety. We handed out the lanterns over a period of several hours to the excited villagers and then trained the villagers one by one in their use. Some of the older folks had some minor issues with the dimmer switch concept and technique but that was overcome with a few minutes of training. The couple who were selected with the task of taking care of the solar power system and charging the lanterns seem to be quite dedicated and will make some extra cash by charging cell phones and flash lights. They also get the backup lanterns which will significantly save their kerosene costs.

Wiring the charge controller which is between the panels and the deep discharge battery

Kids studying with the traditional kereosene lamp

The rechargeable lantern is considerably brighter and better

Initial training in the use of the lantern

Instruction in the use of the lantern

A special performance

The day before leaving the village we had a meeting with the mothers’ group who requested help with a new water system. The government had already pledged 50,000 Nepalese rupees (Rps) and the estimated total cost is Rps 150,000. I suggested that they apply Rps 50,000 from sale of lanterns and a concerted effort should be made to contact all of the Namarkhu villagers working abroad in order to ask them to contribute towards a new water system.

I visited the water source which is about 1 km away and perhaps 250 ft. higher that the high point of the village in elevation. The pipeline path will require significant village volunteer labor but there are only perhaps 3 or 4 places where the pipeline would have to go over monsoon water runs. The pipeline path is not difficult by Nepalese standards. I advised several of the village leaders to measure the water flow several times over the next few months and also measure the distance the pipe will need to travel. They need to spend the government’s budgeted 50,000 rupees in the next few months or they will lose it as a new fiscal year starts. If they are diligent they could have a water system next fall or winter. This would be a great use of the money raised from the lantern sale. Currently they have agreed on a Rps 200 per month payment over 5 months.

Formal portrait after a meeting with the mothers group

We have already been approached by other neighboring villagers about getting them lanterns. I think the word will spread very fast and demand will be incredible. Biggest issue for me has been bug bites and the need to try to accommodate all the invitations for tea, snacks, dinner and drinks (local distilled millet drink called kodo ko rakshi) that everyone wants to serve us.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for your interest. I have lots more pictures posted at www.maui2000.com/villagelighting

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Responses

  1. Congratulations on a job well done. Did you find any villagers that showed promise in the field of electrical wiring? I would think being able to trouble shoot the system once you are gone is going to be critical.

    • The wiring is pretty straight forward. The wiring from the panels to the charge controller and battery and the inverter shouldn’t be an issue for years. They do have the tools and the wires are all color coded. There is a backup inverter that is simple to change out by loosening 2 screws. I have given them the cell phone numbers of the equipment dealer/distributor who can answer most questions on the phone. Otherwise they can hire someone to come out and troubleshoot. It will be interesting to see where the future technological challenges come from and how the villagers respond to the challenges. My thought is that if the project is really valuable in that is provides both more and better light and also saves some significant money, they will be resourceful enough to insure that the project gets repaired as soon as it needs it.

  2. Mitchell,
    A world of good with basic change in quality of life.
    Floating on a cloud Mitch? You should be!

  3. As always you lead the path to goodness for others. The project is wonderful. The photos pull it all into easy understanding. Kudos to all.
    Neida

  4. Brilliant! “Lighting up” so many others lives is a wonderful gift. Congratulations !!!

  5. Congratulation! It’s like a gifting a eyes to villagers.

    • Yes, it is a bit like giving the gift of sight without surgery. We take lighting for granted but if you spend time in a Nepali household that relies on kerosene wick lamps, you quickly appreciate the vast difference an electric light makes.


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