Lessons learned at Solar Energy International (SEI) can be life-changing for students who take our solar energy training both online and in-person at our campus in Paonia, Colorado. In the case of SEI alum, Estevan Figueroa, the impact of SEI classes will spread across the world as he takes what he learned in PV301L: Solar Electric Lab Week (Battery-Based) to Uganda.
Estevan traveled to SEI’s campus in Paonia, Colorado in October for solar energy training in battery-based Photovoltaics (PV). Estevan works with a non-profit, Africa Development Promise, which, “moves women farmers from food for subsistence to food for business using the cooperative model of enterprise. To promote economic empowerment, [they] have adopted a multi-faceted approach to address the concerns of women farmers. Chief among them is access to sustainable and affordable water and electricity.”
Formerly involved in the oil and gas industry, Estevan accrued years of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) training. He got his start in non-profits around 8 years ago as an event coordinator. It was a combination of his OSHA training, non-profit experience and interest in solar that poised him to join the Africa Development Promise team in their mission to install ‘solar kiosks’ in addition to other initiatives in the Wakiso District in Uganda.
In January, Estevan will travel to Uganda for two years to act as a project coordinator and safety inspector for Africa Development Promise. Estevan is currently interning with Utah-based Beautifi Solar, an installation company donating equipment and overseeing the initial design of PV that will go on the ‘solar kiosks.’
According to Estevan, kiosks will be “education stations” for the community. Basic structures in the region have already been build at cooperatives established by Africa Development Promise. At each cooperative there is a greenhouse with a DC (direct-current) water pumping application. The kiosks will add a power station for people to charge their house batteries, used for emergencies, that typically take a costly commute of 12-20 miles to charge. Kiosks will include wifi and a hub for renting tools. There will be a designated person renting out the tools, trained in OSHA standards by Estevan, who will be able to provide guidance. “The next step is teaching about how to maintain the PV systems next year or the year after that,” Estevan said.
Additionally, Estevan shared one more aspect of the solar kiosks, “One of the other things that I think is really cool about these systems is not only will we have the tools and the training and the means of powering the batteries,” Estevan said, “but I love an ice, cold beverage. Something that’s so minute for us here, but in the villages where we will be working, some of the people have never had the opportunity to have a cold beverage. So we’re going to have a fridge there when you come to charge your battery or rent some tools, or if you’re just using the internet for a while, you can get one free beverage.”
Aligning with Africa Development Promise’s mission, the kiosks as a source of wifi, will also give the opportunity for the village to market and sell their agricultural products with the help of the internet.
When Estevan leaves at the beginning of January for Uganda, with the structures already in place, he will be able to start installing and commissioning systems immediately. Estevan credits SEI with the achievement of solar knowledge which he will bring on his journey.
“All of the instructors have great passion, great energy and great real world examples of how it’s applicable and I had a blast,” Estevan said. “ This has been amazing, it’s been a lot, a lot of fun.”
To learn more about renewable energy applications for the developing world, check out SEI’s RDOL101: Appropriate Technology for the Developing World.
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