Fintan McLoughlin is currently providing technical support to Renewable World South Asia. With a background as an Electrical Engineer, Fintan recently completed his PhD at Dublin Institute of Technology and was awarded the DIT Foundation’s Travel Scholarship in Renewable Energy. He is based at the Kathmandu office and is currently working on the Solar Multi Use Systems (MUS) programme, which provides water pumping for domestic use and micro irrigation.
IN MY last days in Nepal I’ve been busy reporting on what I’ve done so far, what remains to be done, and getting some insight into potential future developments and projects for Nepal.
A visit to the state by Renewable World’s CEO, Neil Jeffery, and trustee Louis Fitzgerald coincided with my final week. It was a chance for me to deliver presentations on my work relating to the NGO’s Solar MUS installations in Nepal’s western development district and developing data monitoring for existing and new projects.
My recent experiences in Nepal have shown that the country’s attitude to data collection and monitoring differ from my own. Presently, even basic infrastructural data such as that recorded for weather forecasting at airports is hard to come by.
And although it may appear a small concern, in fact this data is vital. We need it to ensure projects are developed and altered to benefit most from prevailing conditions, and to enable people to understand whether systems are operating at their optimum efficiency.
Later that week, Renewable World’s Regional Programme Manager for South Asia, Nick Virr, and I attended two days of round-table discussions hosted by the World Bank.
Renewable energy companies from India and Nepal had gathered in the hope of exchanging information and best practice models, including in solar business systems in which Renewable World has a great deal of experience and interest.
The meeting highlighted the vast economies of scale in India. But Nepal itself has a population of 26m, and if the success of the mobile phone market here has taught us one thing, it’s that technology business models can work extremely well here. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before access to electricity follows suit.
Due to the data monitoring issues I mentioned above, estimates vary on the numbers of people in Nepal who have access to electricity (at Renewable World we work on a figure closer to 40 per cent).
But what is certain is that reliable access to electricity is currently not possible for anyone in Nepal. Load shedding, an electricity management technique used to control power flows on a network, occurs only as a last resort in the Western world. But in Nepal, where there is insufficient supply to meet demand it happens on a daily basis, for 8-10 hours a day.
I end the week by visiting Kavre once again. Unlike my last visit, I was there not to monitor the water pumping system’s performance, but to evaluate the site for data monitoring. I travel with iDE who have kindly provided transport and a driver, and bring a colleague from Real Time Solutions (RTS).
My project, and another taking place relating to wind mapping with Wind Power Nepal, are steps towards a new model of data collection.
I also take the chance to speak with members of the local community to hear how the Solar MUS has been performing in Kavre.
One man informs me he managed to sell 70kg of vegetables for Rs 5,000 (about $50) which would not have been possible without the solar water pumping. The feeling in Kavre is that the system works.
It’s a good place to end my visit – and this series of blogs: the projects are working, and I can happily report their successes to Renewable World’s South Asia team.
For more from Fintan, visit his full blog on the DIT Foundation website.