Photovoltaic Project

Creating Sustainable Energy

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Meeting great needs with the power of the sun...

 

Sisters of Notre Dame: Creating Sustainable Energy for thousands of people in Nigeria and The Democratic Republic of Congo

children in Congo

It is hard to imagine life without safe drinking water and electricity, but there are hospitals, clinics and schools throughout Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo that exist under these conditions today. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have lived and worked in these countries for years and have learned that electricity can be harnessed and water can be purified through a simple, self-sustaining energy plan that uses the power of the sun.

With industry experts, the Sisters of Notre Dame have developed a plan to create a 25-system grid of photovoltaic power panels throughout Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo that will purify water for homes, schools and medical facilities. The Sisters have called the project “The Power of the Sun.”

A prototype site was constructed in the United States during the summer of 2005 at the Cuvilly Arts & Earth Center in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Engineers and project director, Sr. Lorraine Connell, have traveled to Fugar, Nigeria in the fall of 2005 where they trained Sisters of Notre Dame and several co-workers in all aspects of building, operating and trouble-shooting these sites. Sisters of Notre Dame at each site will be trained to understand fully the operation and material needs of the energy stations. It is necessary for the stations to be monitored professionally by systems experts. This will happen through satellite links, which will connect each station to the internet.

The first site built in Africa was in Fugar, Nigeria in October of 2006.  Additional sites planned will be in Ngidinga and Nselo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Enugu, Nigeria. Future sites will be built as funding becomes available.

Installation of these panels, water purification systems, and satellite internet connections is targeted for 11 schools, 4 hospitals, several clinics and residential communities. An estimated 5000 students and hundreds of woman and children needing health assistance will benefit in the Democratic Republic of Congo—and in Nigeria, 2000 students and 100 women and children and teachers. The strongest feature of this program is that it uses the power of the sun to provide this energy and is self-sustaining.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are semiconductor devices that convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. Groups of PV cells are electrically configured into modules and arrays, which charge batteries and power any number of electric loads. In this project, each site will have at least 45 solar panels that will collect energy from the sun. The energy will be stored in a battery bank and disbursed from there. This system will eliminate the need for costly, and in some cases dangerous, generators.

Water is purified using a closed cylinder containing an ultraviolet light purifier which is attached to the outflow of water tanks from which schools, clinics, hospitals and residences receive water for their plumbing systems. Water is purified using 400 watts of ultraviolet light. Following this process, water is safe to drink. This will eliminate for many the daily task of boiling water.

It is estimated that the development of each of the 25 sites in Africa will cost approximately $250,000 U.S. This includes engineering, transportation, materials and labor costs. The 45 solar panels necessary for each installation will cost roughly $55,000 U.S. The batteries necessary for each site cost $45,000 U.S.

Many of the sites are already secured with walls and fences. Solar panels will be installed on the roofs of existing buildings and the battery plants will be constructed in small cinder-block structures about the size of a shed. The satellite dish and computer components are about the size of a briefcase and are inside the walls of the facilities where they are located.

Contact for general information: For more information about this project, please contact the project's director, Sr. Lorraine Connell at 978-356-2159 ext. 21. Or email Sr. Lorraine at: Lorraine.Connell@sndden.org.

Contact to help support this project: If you are interested in supporting this project financially, please contact Sr. Leonore Coan at 978-356-2159 ext. 12. Or write to Sr. Leonore at: Leonore.Coan@sndden.org.

Articles on The Power of the Sun project: 2009 | 2008 | 2007