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Weekly Speaker Program

February 5, 2018: Stace Wills, The Strongest Oak Foundation's Solar Energy Program.

Several ago our guest speaker was Dave Irvine-Halliday, professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of Calgary. He had been touring in Nepal, and had come across a village with no modern infrastructure. The huts and the school had no windows, and were very dark inside. Small LEDs had just come on the market, and Dave had put nine of them into a tin can, held in place by plaster of Paris, and found that a small motorcycle battery would provide enough energy for the lights to perform for two days.

We funded his project, called Light Up the World, which is still in operation today, and our guest speaker Stace Wills brought us up to date on what is happening with it.

Stace's organization is electrifying villages, and has introduced 'green internships' for local people to manage and keep in good repair. Each intern is responsible to train someone who can act for them during an absence, providing useful redundancy. Power is from solar cells installed in each village.

Sarcee, West and Centennial currently participate in funding this program. A compelling statistic is that graduation from high school has increased from 33% in 2016 to 50% in 2017 because of the ability of students in the villages to study at night. Chores can be done after school, and studying after sunset, providing a large increase in productivity because of the ability to see inside their homes at night.

Reported benefits include extended learning hours, workers can continue to work during the day and attend meetings in the evening to do village business, and household duties can be done in the evening because of the presence of light.

Three villages in Burkina Faso, West Africa, have been electrified to date, and there are many more that can benefit from the provision of light. Two more villages are to be equipped this year, and interns trained to do installation and maintain them.

The cost for a village is $42,000 with a clinic, and $35,000 without. They are asking Calgary West for a contribution of $5,000 with a need for it to be in place by May 18th, with a launch of June 18th. They are partnering with U of C to develop a solar hub, utilizing a field of solar cells and a much higher power production.

They have developed a 'lease to own' program to make the light units more affordable for the villagers, and when the hubs are in operation, have the participating villages lease to own them.

With electricity, the villages could greatly expand their micro manufacturing, hoping to grow the ability to trade outside their region.

Bill Fitzsimmons thanked speaker for his interesting and informative presentation.

  • Ben Kormos, Stace Wills, and Bill Fitzsimmons Ben Kormos, Stace Wills, and Bill Fitzsimmons

reported by Don Campbell

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