New Technology - solar water kiosks and solar lights

I am heading over to Tz for the month of February.  I will be taking back another skyhydrant water filter.  The concept is to develop water/energy kiosks - locally owned and managed local business enterprises.  The business will sell bottled quality water at wholesale rates, and also double as an energy hub for the recharging of mobile phones, and leasing/charging of home based lighting systems (such as lamps and batteries).   MSABI will work with local entrepreneurs' who wish to purchase and manage a kiosk.  Options will be provided for credit loans and ongoing business support provided.  Based on research work conducted by Elvira Cadan and Santiago this year in Ifakara, we envisage the bottled quality water will sell for between 10-20c per (chilled) litre bottle to 5-10c/litre for 10-20L bulk containers.

The kiosk will utilise solar power to pump borehole to fill a header tank and then through a skydrant filter.  Excess solar power will be used to charge mobile phones and other home based electrical appliances such as lighting systems.

The skyhydrant is an ultrafiltration (UF) filter that produces bottled water quality through an outside to inside PVDF (polyvinylidene Flouride) low pressure membrane.  The membrane has a pore size of 0.04 micron - which is approximately 0.0004 of a hairs breadth.  Basically the filter is a molecular sieve and removes all bacteria and between 2-3 log of viruses.

Thanks to the Skyjuice Foundation for their support:

The skyhdrant is packed and ready for Tz.  The weight is 17kg - not bad considering it has the ability to produce around 1,000L/hr of bottled quality water.  I will take as regular airline luggage.

I am very positive about the future direction of solar power and its potential to revolutionise rural Africa -similarly to how mobile phones have in the last decade.  Solar power technology is improving and at the same time prices are dropping dramatically - mainly through mass production in China.  Prices are coming down to an affordable level for poor rural households.  For example, for between $100-200 a family can purchase a small solar system that provides enough power for home lighting and a few small appliances.  The importance of light can not be under estimated in terms of improving and saving lives - and the environment.  For example, with night light children have the opportunity to study - increase their knowledge and ability to move to higher education.  Through night light, families will spend evenings inside their house, instead of with fire or kerosene lights outside - this will drastically reduce malaria rates (assuming screened housing)!  With solar based lighting, families will ultimately save money (on consumable fuels) and help reduce the environmental burden on firewood and fossil fuel reliance!

As part of the energy kiosk we will look at offering rechargeable lamps for families who can not afford a home based solar system (at present) or do not have access to a solar supply chain.  For example, at the moment the solar supply chain is very poor in rural Africa, and the technology is dated and prices very high.  Through new web based forums/platforms such as Alibaba - clients in Africa have direct linkages to manufacturers in China.  Suddenly, it is possible to facilitate the supply of home based solar systems for $100-200 instead of the same system which currently costs $500.  There are many options.  To test Alibaba I recently ordered 12x solar lamps.  They cost $12 each and were delivered to my door in Australia in under a week!!!  I plan to take them to Tanzania and test them out in a village context.

The biggest problem we have is human resources.  To really drive these initiatives along we would really need the project to be driven by a dedicated volunteer and local field manager.  We currently do not have the ability to put 100% into this at present - though it is something that we are planting the seeds for hopefully a future harvest.  Further, I am consious of not out-competing or destroying (limited and expensive) supply chains - ie 2 stores in Ifakara sell some solar equipment.  The best method will be to inform them and encourage them to trial new supply options - direct links to China.

The solar lamps I ordered from Alibaba direct.  They arrived in under a week - much like an Ebay store - but direct to manufacturer.  Such lamps have big potential for school children in rural African villages!

I was a little dubious about the performance of the lamps.  However, first impressions are very positive.  The lamp provide ample light for study - these photos taken in my house.  The next test is obviously in the field - to see how long the battery lasts, number of uses etc, and robustness of the lamp.

An example of the new and improved Alibaba.  Pricing includes freight (to Australia):

Solar pump system (expect to pay at least $2000 in Tz):