Solar Electrification Interview

Below is the email interview of Jennifer Burney, an Assistant Professor at UCSD, who is the project manager for a Solar Electrification Project in Benin. Find more about her group’s efforts and current project here

1) What were the biggest challenges you faced in the implementation of this system? What are the things you didn’t consider in the planning stages but wish you did?
Water availability dictates everything so due diligence on exact water amount really matters. This will to a large extent dictate cost. I’d also say you really need to have a strong understanding of markets, and you need to assume that it will take a few seasons to really get productivity to a reasonable level. Also – not sure if you are planning to do this year round but labor is very tough in the wet season when people often have obligations for other crops, etc. Also, you need to think about fencing fields in (theft, livestock, etc.).

2) What was the financial model of your solar-powered farm? (Did you rent the land, donate it,ect)?
We implemented with existing farmer groups who already had land granted traditionally (in most cases). We then did civil titling as well.

3) If you did charge the farmers for using the land, how much did you charge?


4) If you could change anything about your implementation process/ design what would add or take away?
t’s very stripped down and was pretty participatory. Wouldn’t change much in that way. Ultimately we did move away from the one surface-water system we had installed (drilled a borewell). Filtering was just too tough.

5) Was the solar powered garden a worthwhile and positive venture in the community you worked with?
Yes, still is – we have very strong findings and have scaled it up.

6) Who supervised the garden? Was this person paid?
The groups do it themselves. And there is a team of technicians we trained who do all sorts of other projects now.

7) Where did you receive the initial capital for the acquisition and installation of the necessary materials for the solar powered pump garden?
Financing from various development orgs for the initial capital outlay; groups are self-sufficient thereafter.

8) Any other things that you can recommend or share with our group would be incredibly helpful…
Good luck! Where in Ghana?