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Radio masts are the lighthouses of rural electrification

06-11-2012 09:05 PM CET | Energy & Environment

Press release from: Kirchner Solar Group

/ PR Agency: Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
Pilot project brings solar power to off-grid regions

They are a ubiquitous sight in Uganda: radio masts, powered by noisy, smelly Diesel generators. “Solar powered cellular services” – applying a new operator concept, this idea will not only help the mobile carriers to cut the emissions from the expensive Diesel fuel by more than 90 %, but the solar power will also to be used to provide green electricity to adjacent settlements. In a pilot study conducted with their German partner Kirchner Solar Group GmbH, a medium sized company, the GIZ will develop a marketing concept for solar power in the private sector. This could turn hundreds of radio masts in Uganda into lighthouses shining their light into remote villages.

No electricity in rural areas
80% of Uganda’s 34 million people live off farming. More than 27 million live in rural areas where only 3% of all households have electricity. These figures show the challenge German EZ is facing. The lack of electricity is an obstacle for entrepreneurship and hinders the growth of small service providers and craftsmen; it also significantly restricts the poverty-stricken rural population’s lifestyle. After 7 p.m., millions of huts are illuminated by petroleum lamps– night falls early at the equator! These lamps pollute the air with carcinogenic substances and are expensive to operate: one liter of petroleum, which will last for about a week, is sold for two US dollars outside the cities. In many cases, this is more than a small farmer makes a day.

Is solar power the solution?
One kilowatt-hour produced by petroleum burners, small Diesel generators or batteries people need for their radios is far more expensive than solar power. Yet, solar technology only advances slowly: a private-home solar system costs about 300 US dollars and will only amortize after three years. A farmer depending on subsidies who only thinks ahead from harvest to harvest will find it hard to plan ahead and save money for three years. Also, building solar power plants to supply the village often fails due to the small entrepreneurs‘ low financial power.

Win mobile carriers as main customers - and village households as small customers!
This is the idea behind the project: a solar power provider wins a mobile carrier as a guaranteed key customer – the Airtel company already accepted the deal. Afterwards, some radio masts in remote regions directly adjacent to settlements are selected in a pilot project to serve as connection points for solar electrification. The solar power provider will supply energy to the radio mast while at the same time selling solar power to surrounding households. The power is to be sold by a prepaid meter system: the customer only pays as many kilowatt-hours by his mobile phone that he can actually afford. GIZ Uganda builds on an approach already applied by Insensus in a cooperation project with GIZ to produce wind-solar energy in Senegal. The company, which has been awarded the “Climate and environment award 2010” by BMU and BDI, will develop the energy management system as an external service provider.

Achievements of the German solar power company
Kirchner Solar Group, a company running 12 locations worldwide, has been operating in Uganda since 2008 and has set up four shops, one production plant and a training center near the town of Kampala. The company will provide the entire technology for the solar system in turnkey mobile “energy containers” on site. Kirchner Solar acts as an energy provider in this context, being the first company in Eastern Africa to invest in such a project and to provide the operational management. This includes training local specialists to make sure the system can be operated and serviced by people from the village. It’s the declared goal of solar-powered electrification to create qualified employment in rural areas.

GIZ Uganda’s part
Since 1999, the GIZ has been active in Uganda’s energy sector on behalf of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The “Development Program for Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency (PREEEP)“ has long-standing relations with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and with relevant authorities, such as the Rural Electrification Authority. The concept of off-grid rural electrification has already been politically positioned. Synergies with a project to use turbines in rivers for local power production can be tapped as well.

• establishes the link with the mobile carrier
• ensures the project is embedded into the political and legal framework
• provides support for obtaining the required permits to operate isolated grids
• provides training to local solar technicians
• develops a business model for rural power supply in cooperation with the partners.

What is the goal of the development policy?
BMZ plans to support the pilot project in the context of because they pursue the goal to foster local power supply: when you multiply the approximately 1,000 people that can be supplied per radio mast by the number of remote off-grid radio masts in Uganda, the result is a potential of up to 250,000 people that could be given access to electricity this way. This could alleviate the harsh living conditions of the rural poor population and improve the production possibilities for rural entrepreneurs, which in turn translates into jobs. Using solar energy in this process saves natural resources and minimizes emissions harmful to the climate.

2012: “The international year of sustainable energy for all”
Approximately 1.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity. Therefore, the United Nations have called the year’s motto, launching an “Energy Action Agenda” to support sustainable energy supply. This project is supposed to make a small contribution – and maybe even a large one, if the model can be carried over from Uganda to Africa.

About Kirchner Solar Group
Kirchner Solar Group is a pioneer in the solar industry. The company was founded in 1991 and offers complete solutions for any type of roof. It has so far implemented more than 6,500 solar parks and PV rooftop systems, which makes it one of the leading vendors for renewable energies. The company’s products and services include the design and the installation of PV systems, the production of its own solar tracker systems, the production of independent off-grid systems, trade of high-quality PV components and public fund concepts as well as customized solar systems. The group employs more than 220 people at 13 locations in Germany, Africa, Italy, Canada, USA and Greece. They achieved a turnover of approx. 190 million Euros in fiscal year 2010 with approx. 112 Megawatt Peak PV power installed. Besides their PV systems project and implementation activities, the company has engaged in years of commitment in the field of sustainable and environmental education. Kirchner Solar Group GmbH was awarded the German Solar Award 2010 for their work and commitment in the PV sector – The two managing directors are Lars Kirchner and Christian Wahl -

About PV tracker systems
The „sonnen_system“ PV tracker systems, a product by Kirchner Group, are astronomically controlled biaxial systems. Using a rotatable mount, the solar modules are continuously positioned at a 90 degree angle against the sun. This innovative technology makes sure that the radiation angle against the module is optimal at all times. This way, these solar systems will deliver up to 45% more yield than systems sitting on a fixed structure. So far Kirchner Solar Group produced and installed 11.000 tracking systems worldwide.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für
Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Dag-Hammarskjöld-Weg 1-5
65760 Eschborn
T +49 61 96 79-0

Martha Gutierrez, Landesdirektorin GIZ

Markus Exenberger
T +256 772 791268

Jasmin Fraatz
T +256 773 723869

Dr. Christoph Zipfel (EPW)
T +256 784 074600

Hans Wulff
T +49 5664 93911 953

Media contact:
Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
Ms. Mareike Lenzen / Ms. Annette Müller
Phone: +49 89 628175-28/ -23
Fax: +49 89 628175-11
Haimhauserstrasse 1
80802 Munich, Germany

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