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Old 11-16-2012, 09:14 AM
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Default Help me with a solar project for an Kenyan orphanage



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So I am going back to Kenya to work with an orphanage. They are completely off grid in Western Kenya, on Lake Victoria. They have 85 orphans and a few adults. They do not have any electricity.

The director has asked me to help out with a solar powered system that could put lights in 7 rooms. They don't need a lot of light, but something that could be switched on/off per room. They are pretty much on the equator with no shade, so solar would be ideal. It is a mud walled house with a tin roof.

I don't have much money, so it needs to be very economical. I am not looking to power a fridge or anything big. Just some lights and the ability to charge a cell phone or two.

Can you give me some ideas for a system that would perform day in and day out? Are LED lights the way to go or florescent?

Any other thoughts? I am leaving in 3 weeks.

OldBoyScout
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:24 AM
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You could some of the lighting with water bottles. Check out this link.
http://www.fastcompany.com/1769493/w...plastic-bottle

Also, maybe some of those solar led lights could help.
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:09 AM
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Led lights. Not for the energy savings, but for the lifetime. Led lights will dramatically outlast anything else. Christmas LED string lights are easily modified to work with batteries.

Smallish solar panel, Harbor Freight, or whatever can find them anywhere. Don't forget a charge controller. At the equator you will likely get more energy than a few LED strings, and a cell phone charger will ever use. Over charging batteries would be bad.

Battery depends on travel restrictions. Batteries are heavy and messy if they spill. 3 ups style sealed led acid batteries of 7.2AH or so would run a lot, 50 or more strings of 25 Christmas LED's on a full charge all night long if converted off of 120v

Multiple chargers nearly require an inverter. You never know if the item being charged uses a usb or some other freaky plug. So a small, 100w or so inverter with a usb plug would give 120v (yes wasteful) but universal, and a USB plug for things that can be charged that way. Consider picking up 2 inverters, going with the 2=1 and 1=0. And if 120v is not standard in your area of the world, pick up your inverters locally.

One additional thing, a battery desulfator. Battery life will be shorter than anything else on the list. With a desulfator, and next to nothing draw with led lights, your batteries could last 10 years or more.

If you want me to itemize a list for you let me know. Would be a list of parts that I would take with me if I were going in your place.

Wub

Last edited by Wubboy; 11-16-2012 at 10:10 AM.. Reason: Readability
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:29 AM
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As many ways as you want. The info is out there. I am no expert but alot of this stuff is simple DIY. Thanks for doing what you do. Be safe.
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Old 11-16-2012, 12:00 PM
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the biggest problem with off-grid solar is that you need batteries to make it work! the batteries need to be maintained and cared for or they wont last long...
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Old 11-16-2012, 12:12 PM
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What is your budget?

The goal zero system seems ideal with a combination, Yeti and lite a life lanterns. If you called goal zero personally about your project they might be willing to work with you on the cost. Their customer support is really good and they might be willing to make a charitable donation for marketing and PR.

Goal Zero Yeti kit = $2500 - Comes with the Yeti 1250w + 3 lite a life lanterns + Tripods for the solar panels + 4/30 watt panels + 10 boulder clips + carrying cases for panels


4 additional lite a life lamps = $150

Plus get a couple luna lights = $8 each
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:54 PM
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maybe get some small ups batteries and small 5-10 watt solar maintainers. one of each for each room. running led lights, should last a very long time as long as you keep the dust and dirt off the solar panels and the batteries clean and dry.
for more power, you could even go to small lawn mower/motorcycle 12 volt batteries.
both the solar panels and the batteries should be less then $30 each if money is real tight. i bought a 3 pack of led lanterns that run off AA batteries for under $20. using rechargeable batteries and a couple of solar battery chargers for them would do well.
just a couple of ideas.
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Old 11-16-2012, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldBoyScout View Post
So I am going back to Kenya to work with an orphanage. They are completely off grid in Western Kenya, on Lake Victoria. They have 85 orphans and a few adults. They do not have any electricity.

The director has asked me to help out with a solar powered system that could put lights in 7 rooms. They don't need a lot of light, but something that could be switched on/off per room. They are pretty much on the equator with no shade, so solar would be ideal. It is a mud walled house with a tin roof.

I don't have much money, so it needs to be very economical. I am not looking to power a fridge or anything big. Just some lights and the ability to charge a cell phone or two.

Can you give me some ideas for a system that would perform day in and day out? Are LED lights the way to go or florescent?

Any other thoughts? I am leaving in 3 weeks.

OldBoyScout
Maybe you could take obamalamdingdong back home when you go.
Old 11-16-2012, 04:15 PM
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Why not just use solar powered landscape lights? You could buy a whole bunch of those really cheap and replace the batteries with NiMH batteries.
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Old 11-29-2012, 09:28 AM
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Thanks everyone. My biggest concern with building a solar system for her was her lack of technical knowledge. I did not want her to have to worry about charge controllers and lead acid batteries, etc.

I ended up getting a Goal Zero system as it is very plug and play. This is the kit I got through one of Amazon's retailers, Blue Kangaroos. I was very impressed with their service. The Extreme 350 Base Camp Kit:



Package includes:
2 x Extreme 350w Power Packs
4 x Boulder 30w Solar Panel
4 x Light-A-Life LED Lights 3w, 270 lumen
1 x Extreme Universal Inverter (UI) 400w (110v or 220v)
2 x AC Wall Charger
4 x 12V male cigarette adapter
4 x 9' cord & patented carabiner
1 x chaining cable

Plus I ordered 4 more Light-a-Life's.


This will give her light in 2 small houses with 2 panels, a battery and 4 lights each. If one of the items dies, it will not necessarily take out the whole system. She can also use the battery/inverter to power a small LED projector for movies, charge cell phones and her laptop.

I can post pictures when I return in 2.5 weeks.

Thanks again for all the ideas.

Last edited by OldBoyScout; 11-29-2012 at 09:30 AM.. Reason: corrected links
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Old 12-06-2012, 10:33 PM
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Good luck! What a great project! :0)
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