On Wednesday I visited a Solar and Wind Power dealer in the commercial trading area of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, about 2 and 1/2 hours south of my home. I was looking for deep discharge batteries to replace the car battery I’ve been using to store power generated by the windmill. I learned about these batteries for the first time when visiting Mike McKay and his colleague Peter at Baobab Health.
Hamant, the owner told me that they were currently out of stock but expecting a shipment any day, probably Friday or Saturday, as they had landed in Malawi from South Africa and were waiting to be released by customs. Shipping things into Malawi can be challenging. I tell Hamant that I would like to order one or two and my friend Tom and I start to tell him my story. He responds very enthusiastically and we start having a conversation about powering homes with DC power via wind or solar systems. It turns out he is quite an expert and very experienced. He works with all the big international NGO’s to help them with their wind and solar power needs.
He shows us these small compact fluorescent light bulbs that emit far more lumens than the lights I’m currently using at my home at the about the same low wattage. I decide to get eight bulbs and eight fixtures to install at my house.
While I’m showing Hamant some pictures of the windmills, two guys who turn out to be local solar installers start to listen and join in the conversation. They are Elias and Steve from National Solar and Power Systems, and even though they are based in Zomba, 5 1/2 hours from my home, they turn out to be working in Kasungu province near my home. They ask if they can visit tomorrow Thursday in the afternoon. I say they are welcome.
The next afternoon Elias and Steve wait patiently for us, even after we are delayed for an hour, and come to my farm. Tom goes to talk to my father to give him an update about how things are progressing on the school front and I take Elias and Steve into my room and show them my setup. I give them the tour of the house and we start talking. We decide to rewire my home with 10 lights, 7 in each room, one in the main corridor, and two porch bulbs. We’ll put in new conduit and switches and wiring to be able to handle additional power should we add windmills or solar panels in the future. We work out a fair price and our friends help to finance the investment. We will start work Friday morning at 10 am. Tom has to go to Zomba to see Dr. Mchazime. I will work side by side with Elias and Steve to help and to learn everything I can about modern electrical wiring.
In the photo, I couldn’t wait to try one of the new lights, so I installed one in my room on Thursday night. Now I can read much more easily. I am reading English Grammar, a textbook assigned to me by one of my teachers.
We work all day Friday and dig trenches from the windmill to my room and then another one to cross the courtyard to the other building where my parents and sisters live. We install conduit in or on the walls depending on how hard or soft the walls are. At the end of the day I am very excited.
On Saturday we will install the switches and fixtures.
One of the workmen from National Solar and I work on pulling wires in the new conduit. I got the One.org T-Shirt at TEDGlobal in Arusha, Tanzania.
A recessed box we put in the wall waits for electrical cable and a light switch
Today, Saturday, we installed the bulbs and switches and plastered over all the conduit and filled in the trenches. Tomorrow, we install the new batteries and charge controller, and Tom and Edson & Oliver from Boabab will come to see our handiwork. I’m excited to show them. Meanwhile, I’m reading English Grammar at night. I like it.