Sep 2, 2015

A Solar Friend in Tanzania

Location: Kagera, Tanzania
This panel creates 150W, which powers a
phone, light, and TV
I paid Facebook $80 to push my Wheresthesolar Facebook page to Morocco, the Dominican Republic, and Tanzania. I targeted these countries because Morocco wants to become an electricity exporter to Europe (Reuters), the Dominican Republic is an island nation whose growth is thwarted by a prolonged electricity crisis, and solar is turning Tanzanians like Patrick Ngowi into millionaires.

My 2-week Facebook campaign generated 150 likes on and a huge jump in my wheresthesolar.com visits (150/week to 450/week according to Google Analytics). One Tanzanian man, Humphrey Missama responded with great enthusiasm. We arranged a call on WhatsApp.

I told Humphrey about my project and that I'd be interested in learning more about his projects in Tanzania. The WhatsApp connection was good but there was still a bit of a language barrier. Also, it was a long process. It began on July 18 and I wasn't able to complete my post until September 2--over month and a half. However, Humphrey provided some great information and an interested story. Here's what I learned.

It costs consumers $300 USD to buy and transport the solar panels and batteries from Tanzania's capital of Dar es Salaam to the northwest region of Kagera. Kagera is where Humphrey's work is concentrated. The cost very much depends on the quality of roads of the region and the power needs of the consumer, which can range from 70-300W. There is a great need for electricity in Tanzania and the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) struggles to meet all of this. Solar seems like a great fit.
Humphrey in his element

Solar is not Humphrey's full time job--he is a teacher. He doesn't have capital so he collects money to buy the panels. For fun, he likes to watch football, especially English Premier League. His dream is to become bigger in the solar business and open his own solar shop. Maybe he'll end up like Patrick Ngowi.

This post gave me a great feel for some of the incentives and barriers to solar in Tanzania. However, do you think this is stepping too far away from my original focus of solar applications in the DC area?