A home electricity business is born

Solar PanelsEarlier this year we completed two solar energy installations. One is a large 6kW system at Thiou School, and the other is a 1.5kW installation at our multipurpose community center.

Interior componentsThese energy solutions provide power for the facilities where they are installed, but they are also the base charging stations for our rural home electricity business. Proceeds from the business will help offset operations costs to maintain and run the facilities.

Portable battery kitThe energy business is a pay-as-you-go model run by local operators we train. Customers in the area lease portable battery kits (PBKs) from the operators. The kits include a rechargeable battery (12V, 18 amp-hour, deep cycle battery) and LED lights for their home. The PBKs also have built-in outlets for charging cell phones and other small electronic devices.

Charging the PBKsThe PBKs for the business arrived this week, and Mou Riiny has been busy with the 2 operators getting the batteries charged up and distributed to the initial customers.

Reading the agreementEach customer agrees to the conditions for leasing their PBK. Here one of the customers, a doctor from a nearby clinic, reads the agreement which specifies the amount he must pay each month to continue using the PBK.

Signing the customer agreementThe customer signs the agreement before getting his PBK. Customers who cannot read or write are assisted by other family members. In rural South Sudan children who are in school will frequently use their literacy skills to assist their parents and other adults in the community who are illiterate.

Customer getting his PBKThe PBK is small and portable, but very effective for the small amounts of electricity needed in rural homes in this area. The kit has internal electronics that prevent the battery from over-discharging, thus enabling a single battery to be recharged many times and to last up to 5 years.

Customer getting her LED lightsEach PBK comes with 3 LED lights for home use. This customer takes her LEDs to light her home and to help run a small home business at night.

Multipurpose center customersEach of our solar installations can support at least 80 PBK customers. For this initial pilot, however, each station has 25 customers.

Thiou School customersOur operators have been busy for the past several weeks learning about the business model, explaining the solution to others in the community, and finding their initial customers. Each operator has a waiting list of future customers beyond our current maximum. After piloting the solution with the first 50 customers, we hope to expand with more PBKs for the two solar installations and to install more solar generating stations to deliver the solution to other parts of rural South Sudan.