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  • Jenna

Remote Implementation of the Kanchomba Kiosk, Sept 2020

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

Despite being grounded in Seattle for all of 2020, KiloWatts for Humanity volunteers have kept plenty busy with the planning for and installation of our biggest solar kiosk yet!

In early October, we finished the installation our solar energy kiosk and solar pump in Kanchomba, Zambia. Led by Rafael Castro, Taylor Hudson, and the rest of the Microgrid team, we were able to implement our first kiosk from the States successfully. It was a new challenge for the team to handle due to COVID-19 traveling restrictions, but with the help of our in-country partner, Caritas, we were able to make it work! In an interview with Rafael and Taylor, done by our student communication team at Seattle University, we were able to find out more about the challenges faced when it came to the execution of the Kanchomba project.

SU Communication Team: “What were some difficulties you faced while working entirely from the states and how did you overcome them? Did COVID-19 cause many problems?”

Taylor: “There were definitely problems on all kinds of levels with COVID-19. It made communication with people on-site pretty difficult. The building of the kiosk was pretty late in construction, we ended up having to push back the construction a time or two. It was also hard to communicate what we wanted when we weren’t actually there to enforce what we wanted. The people on-site would interpret what we were trying to say and implement it how they understood it. The layers of that communication caused some issues.”

Rafael: “Back in March, when we first learned that COVID-19 was going to be a thing, we had to decide what we were going to do. If we can’t travel there over the summer, we had to decide if we were going to cancel the project, postpone it indefinitely, or do we go for it anyway?”

“Our mission is to empower people, and so it became clear that canceling or postponing indefinitely would be a cop-out. We said that we were going to go for it anyway and learn from the experience because we can’t travel there. It could also be an experience for when we want to do another project remotely elsewhere. We knew it was going to be a challenge, but we went for it anyway.”

This is where Caritas came in to help our team out, especially when it came to activities such as shopping for appliances and other kiosk needs. In addition to Caritas, the team also had help from Father Bert, a priest affiliated with Seattle University who pointed them to another fellow priest, Father Andrew, from the Chikuni Mission, to help with the installation.

Fikani (far left), a staff member with Caritas, with solar installers from Sunray Power Company.

Despite these challenges, we were able to get the kiosk and solar pump up and running! The energy kiosk will power a small store (which has two freezers!), a barbershop, a hair salon, a small office, and a chicken incubator. On the statistical side of it, the system includes a 15 x 330W (4950 W) solar array, 8kVA inverter, and about 20 kWh of lithium-ion batteries. Overall it will provide 5kW of energy to the community! Though communication posed a challenge in working remotely, the Microgrid team was set on continuing the project, showing the dedication and heart of our members here at Kilowatts for Humanity.

This project was of many ‘firsts’ for us - first time we’ve worked with a partner on a second project, first project implemented remotely, first solar pump installation, first five-room kiosk constructed, and first installation with lithium ion batteries! Many thanks and congratulations to Rafael, Taylor, and all KWH volunteers participating on this program, our partners at Caritas, and the hardworking Kanchomba community for making this project a success!

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