December 2013 was the second trip out to The Gambia for me – this time round was even more personally rewarding than the first.

Last year we managed to install the final Lower Basic School within the central region of the country bringing the school installation total to 7 (plus 2 clinics). These are:

  • Sambel Kunda
  • Sinchu Gundo
  • Kudang
  • Bantanto
  • Mamudfana
  • Njie Kunda
  • Sotokoi

Although one part of the original plan for this years’ trip was to deploy another system at Kudang Medical Clinic, unforeseen complications with the shipping connections due to bad weather left that portion of the trip on hold until the next year. This was almost a blessing in disguise as we had a considerable amount to get on with that, in hindsight, would have been very difficult to complete within the working timeframe.

One main objective of the trip was to install the prototype Remote Monitoring equipment (see related post) at Kudang LBS that was designed and built by our students as part of the new Vertically Integrated Project: Sustainable Energy for Developing Countries program at the University. Some of the challenges faced included on-the-fly software modifications to manage connection security to the wireless GPRS communications networks that the device was roaming on, rewiring the switchboard to install 7 measurement devices, calibration of those devices and finally ensuring data delivery back to our database server at the University. The success of this project is undoubtedly a significant achievement for the Gambia Solar Project and marks the start of the technological direction that we are heading in. Continued development and refinement of these remote monitoring systems will be carried out through the VIP with the desire to install them in all the 7 solar systems at the schools and at the medical clinics to obtain full visibility of the use and health of the assets on the ground.

The other completed objectives of the trip included:

  • Maintenance sweep of all the existing installations
  • Assessing the site of another medical clinic for a future installation
  • Surveying in all visited communities to collect data on the feasibility and financial implications of various business models that will enable a truly sustainable energy future for the areas (VIP Business School students)
  • Improving cooking efficiency and safety (VIP DMEM student)
  • Visiting The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) for future links with Strathclyde

All in all, the most exciting part of this years’ trip for me was laying the groundwork and forming the foundations of what the Gambia Solar Project will become in the coming years. The research and development engine at the heart of this continued success is the Sustainable Energy for Developing Countries VIP which is delivering technological, social and business solutions that will lead to a truly sustainable energy future for the region.