First Thursday - sharing the May archive

"First Thursdays" are informal online meetings. This blog post is an experiment in sharing some of our discussions more widely.


As people arrive we introduce outselves. These are the May introductions, in the order that people wrote them: 

Pamela   McLean -  UK using laptop at home. In the "Dadamac" collaboration I'm   the "mac" part of the name Dadamac. I'm  exploring how the Internet can   help us to collaborate and learn - especially learning-by-doing and   learning-from-each-other 

Jeff  LaHay - Minneapolis, MN USA  using desktop and high speed  DSL from  work. My colleague Fran and I train people to  assemble small solar  cellphone charging systems to create local cottage industries in the  developing world. In March 2012 we trained 15 Fantsuam Foundation  students to build solar cellphone chargers and also installed a solar  charged LED lighting system in the pediatric ward at Kafanchan General  Hospital.  My email is 

Experimental projects photos 

Filo- (Kafanchan, N Central Nigeria) volunteer with fantsuam foundation. assisting John Dada and Fantsuam in whatever way possible, also working and talking with Pam. I enjoy being at the weekly Dadamac meeting with the rest of the crew. Setting up the Agendas for Dadamac meetings makes it even more interesting for me. 

Kelechi Micheals - (Nigeria)  

Formerly Operations Manager at Fantsuam Foundation Now Operations MAnager at KElcrop Enterprises. Kelcrop Enterprises is an Agriculture Business venture.  and  

Emeka Anyakoha (Port harcourt-Nigeria) - IT Network Engineer and currently an Entreprenuer looking to use my IT skills to create wealth and jobs. Also very interested in giving back to the society -via an NGO am currently setting up in my home country Nigeria and. Was introduced to this forum by Kelechi Micheals of Kelcrop Enterprises 

Victoria Eze (Port Harcourt Nigeria)- A retired banker, currently running an NGO (Divine victory charity organisation) here in Port harcourt 

Mark Roest (United States), now in a battery technology startup; got involved with Africa through oneVillage Foundation. William Todorof, the inventor I am working with, also spent 50 years developing solar PV, and invented a wind turbine and high-mileage hybrid cars. 

Ana; Student of Sustainable Development and very interested in every issue to change the economic system

Archive of our discussions

We drew these comments out from our chat. They are not in the order then were written in the chat, but are clustered under the names of the people who made the comments. We use an etherpad - so we have a chat box, and we also have a larger space to create a shared document - which is what is shared here.

The names are in alphabetical order. Two main topics emerged

Chatting about solar

Emeka said : I run an Internet cybercafe in Nigeria and spend so much on petrol to run my generator every day

am really looking for ways to cut down on this. Kelechi told me solar could be the way to go
The main challenge here in Nigeria is getting solar panels and batteries that will last the period. Most of the panels and batteries (coming from china - where most of our importers go to) packup so fast. This has made most potential buyers give a second thought to the whole idea of alternative power supply
I also want Jeff to extend his "teaching" of solar charger desig and etc to us over here i Nigeria. like kelechi said, the sun is really wasting over here in Nigeria
Pls guys am intrested i setting up a solar-powered network for my cyber cafe in Port harcourt. I could get my power requirements now. Hold on

Filo said Right now at FF, one of our major challenges are the batteries for the solar power to be in full use. we have a solar club at Fantsuam, the club has succeeded in building a solar panel which was mounted at the post office in Kafanchan last thursday. The club plans to expand and build more solars and train people eventually. this is just the first try, it is still trying to establish grounds for that.
Jeff said
 My  colleague Fran and I are tackling the BOP by teaching people to build  small solar  cellphone chargers and also a simple LED torches inspired  by Graham Knight in the UK.
Kelechi said
Kelechi: I am building a small business around barefoot solar lamps, hoping to get smaller entrepreneurs to take the lead.
15:00 Kelechi: It also has feature for phone charging, 
Kelechi:  I get them from the main distributor in nigeria, 
Kelechi: right now, the sun is blazing hot, , I just imagine how many watts are wasting away. 
@N200,000 to N300,000 it is possible setup a small home solar unit which can be scaled up later. This will get : 80 watt PAnnel N45000, 1 or two, Deep cycle battery 200Ah , 600 - 1000 watt inverter (may not be pure sinewave) , usually china made . a good charge controller. This usually would provide lighting, and  power for flat screen TV, I will get the Data sheet for an installation we did a year ago and ppost. it is more accurate. Scalling up will ofcourse attract more cost.
Mark you could get exchange rates from , but let check local for our central bank rates. 
Yes , Mark I am registered on lighting africa. Also that is where I got to know barefoot solar is a recommended brand too. A solar village is a good idea. I decided to astart with the small solar llamps and see how people could afford it and use in place of Kerosene lamps and candles. 
Mark said
7:22 Mark Roest: How much solar and how much storage does that include, Kelechi? Solar would be in KW or watts, and storage in kWh.
Our batteries are designed to be non-toxic, non-flammable, very powerful, and to last many years. Why SeaWave? It has enhanced saline electrolyte, like sea water, and it holds a great deal of power, like an ocean. We are building a prototype now; looking to start production in 6 to 12 months.
Mark Roest: Is that 161.3 Naira per USD?
Mark Roest: We are thinking we will first make in the US (I'm in California) and ship to Africa, and then set up manufacturing in Africa. That applies to batteries first, then solar and wind later.
I calculated $1242 to $1615 for N200,000 to N300,000 -- is that correct?
If you build a larger solar system, like for a village, it can cost less per kW; same for batteries, they can cost less per kWh. So by cooperating, everyone can get more for less.
I have a friend in Southern Nigeria who is importing transformers from Europe and installing them on the electrical grid in cities in South-South Nigeria. He is interested in building up the economy, as is his father, who was a consultant to the governors of the six SS provinces who decided to cooperate to build up their economies. Fantsuam could also do this in the north -- especially after it works in the South and my friend might then finance work in the North.
I was thinking that NGOs could go into business with the batteries, and other parts of systems, and that way they could fund their other work.
Do you know about Lighting Africa? It's; here's what they say on their home page: 
                        Lighting Africa – Catalyzing markets for modern off-grid lighting        
Lighting Africa is a joint IFC and World Bank program that works towards improving access to better lighting in areas not yet connected to the electricity grid.
Lighting Africa catalyzes and accelerates the development of sustainable markets for affordable, modern off-grid lighting solutions for low-income households and micro-enterprises across the continent.
About 600 million people, and more than 10 million micro-enterprises, across Africa have no access to electricity. They use inefficient and costly fuel-based lighting sources such as kerosene lamps, which greatly curtail their socio-economic activities once darkness sets in.
To date, Lighting Africa and its partners have made it possible for more than 6.9 million people in Africa to access clean, safe lighting.
What are modern off-grid lighting products? 
The Lighting Africa program works with off-grid lighting products or  systems that are stand-alone, rechargeable and can be installed,  assembled and used easily without requiring assistance from a  technician. These products are affordable, typically costing less than  US$ 100, some retailing at US$ 10 or less.
Modern off-grid lighting products have three key components:
  • electricity source, most commonly a small 1-5W solar panel; 
  • a modern rechargeable battery, increasingly lithium-ion; and 
  • a modern lantern or lamp, usually with an LED (light emitting diode) bulb. 
During the day, the solar panel is placed directly in the sun to  generate electricity that recharges the battery.  At night, the  electricity is available to power the lamp.  Products that meet Lighting Africa Performance Targets guarantee users at least four hours of good, consistent lighting each night after a sunny day of recharging.
Other modern off-grid lighting products on the African market are dynamo-powered, with the batteries charged by electricity that is mechanically generated through hand or foot pedaling.
Additional features of modern off-grid products that are popular with  consumers include mobile phone charging kits, which enable consumers to  connect and charge their phones directly from the solar panel, or from  the lighting product’s battery.
This means that you can combine phone charging with lighting on the same product.
Victoria said
kelechi has told me abt solar,i belive its wortht using 
15:09 victoria: to reduce the cost of petrol for generator
15:09 victoria: especially here in nigeria
solar helps to reduce our carbon footprints as it is a clean energy panels are silent because they convert sunlight into elctricity without making any sound and if we get the original panels, then we are sure of over 25years manufacturers perfomance warranty unlike the generator set.finally electricity prices keep going up and up, so installing solar power could save approximately 2,000KWH each year using solar energy which may help us save money on our electricity bills.
That also keeps the money in the community, so it cycles around and around, and the community becomes prosperous, instead of all the money leaving the community and going to the rich people in the big cities.

Finance and other general business problems

We separated this theme out from our general solar discussions
Filo said
finance challenges are everywhere but i must admit that nigeria has a special case,most small scale businesses dont florish in nigerian  majorly beacuse of power challenges. if we are able to help the power sector with our solar idea, i think alot will improve
Kelechi said
a major challenge here is getting financing in nigeria. its not always as easy . I basically finance all my projects. 
Mark said
 I  see Nigeria and Ghana and Kenya as starting places, because of my work  with Joy Tang in oneVillage Foundation. Ed Cherlin was also working with  us, and he is now a manager for digital curriculum development with  SugarLab, which does the software for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)  computers. They use very little electricity (maybe 1-6 watts).
I  see a 3-step development process. First you get financing to sell a few  solar panels, batteries, OLPC computers, communications and clinic  equipment, and knowledge resources to a village cooperative or village  council of elders and youth and adults, who can use them to coordinate  getting crops to market for a fair price, and getting crops from other  villages which are needed for complete, balanced nutrition. The idea is  to start fixing problems that hold the people back, and enable the  community to start on the path to prosperity and maximizing human  potential.
The  second step: the money, learning, and growing health, unity and  strength from the first step, enable the village to design the next  steps to building their economy, and purchase the equipment to enable  them to start manufacturing something, as well as for a village school  and community center (which could be in the same location). That  combination greatly strengthens the village economy, and trade among  villages strengthens the regional economy. 
That also keeps the money in the  community, so it cycles around and around, and the community becomes  prosperous, instead of all the money leaving the community and going to  the rich people in the big cities.
The  third step: with the money that comes from this, the communities can then purchase consumer goods, using the knowledge of sustainability they have developed to do it wisely.
My  friend may be able to finance all of this. He would first want to see good planning and organisation in the communities, or at least in the NGOs, to be ready to do business efficiently.
I agree on the savings from solar and batteries. Lead acid lasts 300 to 2,000 cycles of charging and discharging (using), and lithium-ion lasts maybe 1,000 to 5,000, depending on the design and the quality. We expect our early batteries to last 10,000, and our later ones to last 25,000 cycles, so once the batteries and solar panels have paid for themselves, you can stop purchasing replacements all the time and use the money for something else.
The knowledge side of things is also important. You can make one thing feed another thing; this is called Integrated Farming and Waste Management Systems <>, or Permaculture, or BioIntensive Gardening.
Please email me at, and I can introduce you to my friend in South-South Nigeria.

Full archive

The full archive of our discussion is in the chat box of our May First Thursday meeting -

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.