almost justified. However, much has happened since the fall of Said Barre and the American Blackhawk debacle of the early 1990s. Peace has come to the northern regions, now called Somaliland and Puntland, and elections in Djibouti are breathing fresh hope for peace in the ragged war-torn regions of the south. With all electricity infrastructure destroyed, and among the best solar resources in the world, many Somalis are committed to using solar energy as a new building block for their infrastructure.
Today, the three nominal regions that make up what was once Somalia (Somaliland, Puntland, and southern Somalia) have no central utilities, very little power generation, and no rural electrification programs to speak of. Energy Alternatives Africa (EAA) and Horn of Africa Relief and Development Organization (Horn Relief, for short) have taken up the challenge to get a solar industry started in the region.
In July 2000, Energy Alternatives Africa and Horn Relief conducted a basic solar-electric installation course in a Puntland desert oasis community hundreds of miles from the nearest grid. Working with fifteen technicians, we installed six photovoltaic (PV) systems that are now used for lighting and powering school equipment at the Buraan Rural Institute (BRI).
In 1997, Horn Relief sent one of their employees to an EAA Solar Training course at the KARADEA solar training facility in Tanzania. They immediately recognised the potential of solar electricity in Puntland and decided to introduce PV in their area of operation, Sanaag. It took three years to raise funding for equipment and a local training course.
NOVIB, a Dutch development organisation, provided funds for the purchase of PV power systems at BRI. Meanwhile, the British Lotteries and APSO (the Irish aid organisation) provided support to cover the costs of designing systems, running a two-week training course, and overseeing the relatively complicated delivery of equipment from Europe to the Somali outback.
In January 2000, Mark Hankins, Fatima Jibrell, and Horn Relief Engineer Omar Irbad visited BRI to map out the school's PV systems and budgets. After this preliminary visit, EAA designed the systems, and Fortum/NAPS was awarded the contract to supply the equipment. In March, Frank Jackson of Green Dragon Energy, Wales, UK was hired through APSO as chief project contractor/electrician.
Shortly thereafter, the course and installation was set for July, and the delivery process was set in motion. In April, a violent hailstorm blew roofs off about half of the buildings at BRI. When we found out about this setback, we decided to use ground mounts for the three multi-module arrays.
Horn Relief organized participation of fifteen technicians in the July courses. Although they work with women as their primary target group, they decided to only involve men in this first course, since women electricians are virtually unknown in Somalia (a future course hopes to train a group of women to install systems in Galkayo, the capital of Puntland).
In early July, Frank Jackson flew from Nairobi, Kenya to Bosasso, to complete the preliminary tasks in the installation, before the course began. The trip involved a six-hour flight in a Beechcraft ten seater, ending up in the spectacular desert airfield, set between arid desert cliffs and Red Sea coral reefs. After spending a night in the heat of Bossaso, Frank and the students made the journey to the oasis town of Buraan, located in the high desert of central Somalia. They were accompanied by AK-47 toting "guards," grim reminders of the security problems of the past. Buraan, in the contested no-mans land between Puntland and Somaliland, has a spectacular scenery of mesas, rock outcrops, and sandy washes lined by green acacia trees. Somali nomads can be seen tending camels and herds of sheep along the rough track that leads to Buraan.
BRI, one of a few higher education institutions in Puntland, is sequestered inside a large walled compound. Outside, there is a town of under 1,000 inhabitants, who draw sustenance from their livestock and a few date palms and fruit trees adjacent to the oasis. The town is surrounded by picturesque yellow-brown cliffs.
With the help of the fifteen students, Frank unpacked and checked the equipment, began the installation work, setting up some lights and a basic AC power supply, and began holding introductory evening classes for the students.
Given that Somalia has largely been isolated from the rest of the world over the past ten years, it has not been exposed to the "solar revolution." People in rural areas have concentrated on simply surviving and avoiding conflicts. So an entire generation of people is without education and relevant skills. As bright as they are, our students have had little opportunity to access formal education. When Frank began holding introductory classes, he had to start with the basics, from DC electricity to solar energy.
Frank had detailed plans of the installation that he'd drawn up after EAA's preliminary visit earlier in the year. The Buraan school compound is a square-shaped, walled-in area of about 100 by 100 meters (328 x 328 feet), surrounded by a high perimeter wall topped with rolled barbed wire (a grim reminder of more chaotic times).
Running through the centre is a wall that separates about a third of the total area, the girls' quarters, from the rest of the compound. The main area consists of all the other buildings, including the boys' dormitories, classrooms, and teachers' houses. The yellow-painted
System 1: Classroom Block 12 Volt PV System
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