Project Everest

Work Update

Malawi Energy – Powering on from December

Rhys O'Brien
Rhys O'Brien | Jan 3, 2018 | in Knowledge Base

The December Team have had an incredible month and turned research into a product (ModSol) which locals in Mlanga have expressed massive interest in.

Getting an operational license is critical for this project as sales will provide the ultimate proof of concept and enable us to test and iterate both the product and the business model effectively while providing a positive impact and lead towards launching a business. Obtaining the required retail, regional and solar licensing is a massive goal for us.

Making sales may be blocked by a license not coming through early in the month, or this month at all. To overcome this, we are thinking about trialing a feedback system where we would leave the product with a local household on the conditions that 1. We would be taking it back after a fixed period and 2. They provide us with as much feedback as possible.

We also want to search for new areas and districts to test the prototype in to help iterate the product and increase reach when we receive a license and can implement the business in the community. Hopefully empathy and testing will allow us to find ways of changing and improving the product for the better, and hence we also want to test the new iterations that might come about from this.

Our goals are:

  •  Acquiring satisfactory licensing for the business
  •  Implement 11 tests in the community
  •  Iterate the prototype to 3 designs
  •  Ideate a viable payment plan




If these are all achieved, legitimate sales in the community will be well on the way for our successors. We would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and improvements!

Scott Jucius Jan 3, 2018

If you have time over the next month, perhaps you could look at designing a prototype solar panel tilt angler to improve the solar efficiency of the panel. Something small and simple that would allow locals to easily change the solar panel's tilt angle towards the sun rather than just lying flat or against the battery in the photo above.

For phones that are charging while the solar panel is outside, what type of protection is currently available for the devices from sudden rain or sun damage?

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Rhys O'Brien Jan 3, 2018

Hi Scott! Two brilliant ideas there!
A simple device to improve the efficiency of the panel would be awesome, this is definitely something we will look into.
A protective cover for the phone and battery is something we will definitely implement also.
Thanks for your ideas, venture on!

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Mallory Dobner Jan 3, 2018

As Rhys said, good points to both of them. In terms of designing a solar panel tilt how would you express what is the most effective angle to have a solar panel at at a certain time? There is little to no solar understanding in Malawi and getting the solar panels at the right angle is hard in a developed country like Australia, would the effort that would go into designing a panel tilt be worthwhile for the additional efficiency?

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Scott Jucius Jan 3, 2018

Hi Mallory, yes I certainly agree that designing an effective mechanism while keeping it as simple as possible may be difficult for a country like Malawi. To achieve perfect alignment of a solar panel and the sun at all times during the day, the use of LDR resistors and linear actuators are required, something not viable due to cost and more than likely component availability. Therefore, any tilt design for Malawi would be far from perfect, however would improve the efficiency. In terms of how to achieve the correct angle, there are a couple of ideas I can think of.
- The easiest idea would simply be to simply tilt the solar panel towards the general direction of the sun. This wouldn't be very accurate, however would still improve efficiency over a flat lying panel.
- A pencil like shaped object that is attached perpendicular to a board. The board can then be used to help position the panel, as when there is no shadow from the pencil, the panel and sun are perfectly aligned. To maximise solar exposure for a stationary panel, having no shadow at solar noon would be ideal.

As the suns angle in the sky would change throughout the year, the panel would have to be constantly realigned. And as you said, people have little to no understanding of solar in Malawi, therefore this concept may be hard to explain.

Would the effort that would go into designing a panel tilt be worthwhile for the additional efficiency? That is certainly a hard question to answer at the moment, and one which I can't without being in Malawi. It may very well not be worth it, however I thought it was worth mentioning the idea anyway.

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Ciaran Hoare Jan 4, 2018

Ripper ideas Scott. Rhys if you decide to head down this path, you'll need to split test the effects of it's introduction. This will tie into impact assessment too

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Lily Partridge Jan 5, 2018

Super keen to see how you guys go getting these licenses and making headway!
As someone who has dealt with the waiting for licenses and registration issue multiple times, I feel your pain! However, the time you have now is a huge blessing with the customers running trial and feedback sessions before making legitimate sales. From what Mallory says, there doesn't seem to be a lot of understanding and awareness of the benefits of solar/sustainable energy in Malawi, so this time will be your opportunity to really iron out your value proposition and marketing plan.

Ensuring that the relationships you build with these trial customers is strong is integral to getting genuine feedback about the product. If you can integrate questions about unexpected/surprising qualities that they found as well as big and little benefits that they gained, it will help you market the product to a greater range of people. Even running a session beforehand with these trial customers about what they think they will do with it, and again after to see how their knowledge has grown as a result of using it, and then beyond that what they would love to be able to do further now that they know the value. This will hopefully help you with hitting your third goal of different iterations based on conditional customers and you can start rolling out on different scales like residential, community, or commercial.

Absolutely can't wait to see you guys smash this month! Good luck!

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Wade Tink Jul 2, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

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