In partnership with UNIDO, Sunlabob enables economic and social development with solar PV electrification of growth centers, universities and training facilities.
Sunlabob Renewable Energy, the Laos-based social enterprise specializing in renewable energy and clean water projects in developing parts of the world, today announced it has been awarded two contracts for the design, supply, installation and local training for 13 turn-key solar PV power plants in off-grid areas of Sierra Leone. The installations – funded by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) – will enable a reliable electricity supply in universities, training facilities and community centers to facilitate local enterprise development through a variety of uses, ranging from agricultural and industrial training to improved internet access.
“Providing off-grid areas with renewable energy not only enables dependable and affordable electricity, but also opens the door to positive, long-term social and economic development,” said Andy Schroeter, founder and CEO, Sunlabob. “The efforts from UNIDO to electrify through decentralized solar PV are a prime example of how public-private partnerships of this nature squarely address objectives such as better education, increased job opportunities and greater communications access.”
Less than 10 percent of Sierra Leone’s population has access to electricity, and for the population that does have access to electricity, prices are significantly high due to inefficient and costly generators.
To complete the 13 solar-powered local enterprise development projects – twelve 5 kWp plants and one 16 kWp plant – Sunlabob will embed members of its engineering team alongside local partners to undertake the design, installation, testing and commissioning of the systems. The company will also provide hands-on usage and maintenance training with community members to build awareness and understanding to enable longevity of the solar systems, technically and socially.
The 13 recipient locations are focused on education and training, ranging from the Koindu Growth Center in the Kailahun District to the Forahbay Engineering College in Freetown. Enabled with a steady supply of electricity, the centers and schools will be able to utilize computers, internet and other communications tools to improve education opportunities and learn skills applicable to growing Sierra Leone’s local economy.
“These projects are directly in line with Sunlabob’s tradition: to ensure self-sustaining renewable energy access by empowering community members with the necessary knowledge and skills to keep the systems productive for a long time,” said Schroeter. “Without local capacity building, development of off-grid energy cannot be sustainable.”
The newly-awarded projects are not Sunlabob’s first experience in Sierra Leone. In 2012 the company designed, installed and provided community training for three solar PV plants totaling 53 kWp in three industrial growth centers in the villages of Bo, Kpandebu and Pujehun. Each center is providing agricultural entrepreneurship training and development for rural youth and young adults in underprivileged communities.
Within Africa, Sunlabob has previously enabled solar-powered electrification of rural areas in Liberia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Guinea Bissau and is currently working with The World Bank to bring electricity to more than 60 schools throughout Uganda.