The second phase of the Hinterland Electrification Programme (HEP) has commenced as the first set of 11,000 home solar systems earmarked for distribution has started to arrive.
Over the past two months, 355 persons from the 184 beneficiary communities were trained to assemble, install and maintain the systems, a press release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said. It noted that the solar panels project is a key priority identified within the Low Carbon Development Strategy.
The HEP was launched in 2005 after government sought to explore options for the sustainable electrification of the hinterland, as part of the National Unserved Areas Electrification Programme. It is being executed by the Hinterland Electrification Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister.
According to GINA, pilot testing took place after the programme was launched and 65W Photo-Voltaic (PV) (solar) Home Systems emerged as the most feasible option for electrification for households. “As such, 11,000 such systems will be distributed in isolated communities that remain too distant and lack sufficient load to be connected to the grid system,” the release said. To date, 1,729 households, 21 primary schools and two health centres have already been furnished with the systems. The plan also entails outfitting primary schools and health centres with larger panels.
GINA said an assessment of the pilot programme which concluded in 2010 revealed that the solar systems helped to improve the quality of life in many households. It allowed home-owners to buy more appliances and has allowed students to increase their reading skills, complete assignments and listen to educational programmes. Communities also saw marked increase in economic activities in homes such as sewing, knitting and cake making.
The release said each package to be distributed includes a PV panel, a 6A-12V DC charge controller, a 67 Ah -12V deep cycle gelled electrolyte battery fitted with suitable terminals, sunlight resistant cable, 10 A, 1-pole DC circuit breaker, 9W-12VDC compact fluorescent lamps and a DC lightning arrester, with a unit cost of US$241.