Metta Centre Installation
In the field, each solar-electric installation took about one and a half days to complete. We started with the installation at the Metta Centre. The Metta Development Foundation is one of the few local NGOs that exist in Burma. It works to assist Burmese communities to recover from the impact of decades of civil conflict. Two of the renewable energy workshop participants were from Metta.
The centre trains farmer-teachers in multi-month training courses on integrated farming methods. The farmer-teachers return to their villages to set up field schools. The Metta Centre itself is a working example of the successful application of these natural farming methods. Starting with land that had been abandoned as unproductive and barren, Metta has adapted natural farming methods to produce impressive crop yields.
The Metta Centre is many miles away from grid electricity. The solar-electric installation will be used to power lights for evening meetings and to power two computers used to write reports. Amicrohydro system using a 1 KW, AC Chinese turbine was installed last year. Stream flow is insufficient to provide adequate electricity yearround, so the system only functions during the wet season.
The center also has a diesel generator that is used only occasionally because of the high cost of diesel fuel. For lighting, lamps and candles are used most of the tim e. The solar-electric system at Metta included a battery charger to take advantage of electricity from both the diesel and microhydro when they are operating. The microhydro and diesel are not run at the same time; a transfer switch is used to run one or the other.
For the solar-electric installations, participants broke into three teams. One team was assigned the task of mounting the solar module. The second team was in charge of wiring for the 12 volt lights. The third team wired the battery, fused disconnect, and charge controller. The system will be maintained by two Metta Centre workers who attended the five-day installation workshop.
Shalom Centre Installation
Our second installation was at the Shalom Centre, about 9 miles (15 km) north of Myitkyina. The Shalom Center provides a forum for a variety of peace and reconciliationactivities following the cease-fire between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burmese military. It is also involved in efforts to find sustainable development opportunities for the Kachin people to replace the current reliance on resource extraction—teak logging, gold mining, and jade mining.
We installed a solar-electric system at the night watchman’s house at the Shalom Centre. Though the center has a diesel generator, it is seldom used because of the high
cost of fuel and generator maintenance. The solar-electric system will provide reliable and affordable lighting for evening meetings at the Shalom Centre.
The center is located far from grid electricity. Using a transfer switch connected to the centre’s generator, electricity from the solar-electric system will power lights in a key meeting room at times when a few lights are needed, but turning on the generator would be overkill. The system also powers a 12 volt fluorescent light for the watchman’s
house. One of the renewable energy course participants is responsible for maintenance at the Shalom Centre, and will look after the operation of the system.
With the successful completion of both installations behind us, we held a review and question and answer session. It covered participants’ interest in less expensive
renewable energy technologies—hydraulic ram pumps, hydroelectricity, biogas, and simple wind turbines. In the closing ceremony, I donated the tools that we had used in
the installation, as well as several books and Home Power compact discs on renewable energy to KBC.