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
A team of students and mentors is planning to travel in December of 2018 – we will be partnering with local solar installers to do mock installations to practice and learn about the process of solar installation. This solar installation is expandable, and future members can continue and expand the installation to meet the needs of the school. If you are interested in joining this team, please come to out interest meeting at the beginning of the fall semester.
Our team is currently completing our final structural designs for the implementation of the solar panel system this fall. We will complete the full scale installation of the solar PV system and educate the community on its proper use and maintenance. We are working closely with a professional mentor that has strong experience in the solar industry and international project experience. This trip will bring to fruition our goals and the goals of the EWB-USA to provide the LemonAid Village Community with a reliable and consistent energy source they can count on every day. After the completion of this system implementation we will ensure the project’s sustainability by creating a monitoring program involving continued communication with the community and impact assessment.