Zambia Students Shine, Thanks to First Solar-Powered High School in Africa
Sioma High School serves a large area of Western Zambia, Africa. Its more than 600 students walk, sometimes for several days, to get to the campus, where they will live for the entire semester. Sioma High School’s four dormitories, kitchen and dining halls, and seven classrooms, were powered by three dirty and inefficient diesel generators that ran throughout the day, creating an unhealthy learning environment filled with noise and air pollution. It was susceptible to the fluctuating price and unpredictable delivery of diesel, which costs the school approximately $26,000 each year. That is, until Empowered by Light stepped in.
Empowered by Light, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve lives through renewable energy technologies, had an idea to replace Sioma High School’s non-sustainable fuel source with solar power.
“We hoped to show the Zambian government, and the world, that energy poverty can be eradicated by replacing generator-based power systems with clean, renewable energy, and that there is a short payback,” said Marco Krapels, co-founder of Empowered by Light. “The photovoltaic system at Sioma High School is a donation to the people of Zambia and will demonstrate, at a scalable level, that the school can generate power at a cost lower than diesel.”
Empowered by Light tapped Standard Microgrid, an international renewable energy microgrid development social enterprise specializing in high-profile solar installations and challenging off-grid renewable energy applications, to design and build the PV system at Sioma High School. Empowered by Light received cash and product donations to make the $200,000, 24-kilowatt solar microgrid and battery storage system a reality.
It includes 106 Suntech STP230 modules, as well as three Sunny Island off-grid and four Sunny Boy 5000TL-US transformerless inverters donated by SMA America. The ground-mounted system will produce about 43,800 kWh annually, which will provide 100 percent of the campus’s energy needs.
Oscar-Nominated Actor Brings Star Power to Commissioning
Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers; Shutter Island) joined key Zambian government officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and commissioning of Sioma High School’s microgrid on August 30, making it Africa’s first solar-powered high school. Ruffalo, who has a PV system on his New York home, is a passionate advocate for the environment and active supporter of Empowered by Light.
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