The LemonAid Village Schools in Lower Allentown, Sierra Leone educate almost 700 children in the area. In the words of headmistress, Francess Browne, “We are having energy failure and we are in desperate need of supplemental energy through source such as solar panels and energy storage facility”. The power grid of Freetown is inconsistent and an unreliable energy source for the community. In order to power their schoolhouse and run a small computer lab they rely solely on a gas generator which uses a large portion of the schools budget every day.
The Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002) hit the community of Lower Allentown especially hard. Rebels destroyed schools, killed teachers, cut electrical, phone, and water lines, and burned most of the businesses. In 2004, the government of Sierra Leone was forced to pass the Local Government Act, under which all localities in Sierra Leone became responsible for providing their own water, electricity, and other utilities. Freetown, the capital, mainly relies on power stands as well as two power ships that they have contracted to generate more than a fourth of the city’s electricity. Power outages are common, and many schools, businesses, and households are forced to buy expensive diesel generators to provide consistant power.
In an effort to rebuild their society, Lower Allentown built a school to educate their children and community members. Francess Brown, the founder, contacted The LemonAid Fund to help construct the school, and The LemonAid Fund in turn contacted EWB-USA, NCSU to help provide clean water and renewable energy.
A renewable energy source is desired which will provide the school with a clean and consistent source of power for their daily activities. Our first step in this process was to understand the needs of the community, as well as the economic and environmental costs of their current energy supply. We traveled on an assessment trip in the Summer of 2012 to take load measurements, and organize an implementation and education plan with the school administration. It is important that the school is educated about different energy alternatives, as well as the efficient use of available solution. Together, we plan to implement an appropriate system to meet these needs and have a lasting impact.
Phase 1 Implementation: 2014
In the Summer of 2014, we traveled back to Sierra Leone for the first phase of our implementation where we ordered our parts and began a structural analysis on the building that will house the panels and solar equipment. We also spent a lot of the time working with the technical leads in the community to build a mutual understanding of roles and ensure a successful system installation.
Phase 2 Implementation: 2018
In 2018, we traveled back to finish the implementation of the solar appliances. The team completed adding the solar pv and battery storage system that provides clean, reliable electricity to the school in order to provide for the school’s needs. Officials from the school were also aided in order to best understand how to operate and maintain the system.
In March of 2020, a new group of students traveled to preform the final monitoring and evaluation trip. This group was comprised of both SLRE and SLW group members, as both teams were in the same stage of the project cycle. The system was checked to ensure that everything was working as expected, and past data was looked at. Additionally, an informal pre-assessment was preformed on other schools where projects could be preformed in the future to extend our chapter into additional locations in the region.
Our partnership with the Dele International Learning Center is officially over, but our team is working on potentially expanding the project into other neighboring schools near Lower Allentown which may also benefit from a partnership with our chapter. We are still in contact with the Dele International Learning Center and are working to ensure that they will still have the resources necessary to maintain their facilities. Simultaneously, the team is working on sharing the results of the project to the NC State and Raleigh communities through travel books and a documentary with the hopes of inspiring students and raising funds for future projects.