Engineers Without Borders Australia
Story from the field - Lighting Nepal

EWB field volunteer shares his experience at Jyoti Vocational Training Centre, where young Nepalis are completing solar PV classes. 

After completing their class students have been practicing their skills out in the field by assisting with the installation of Solar Home Systems (SHS) in 40 homes. 

Despite Nepal’s huge potential for hydropower, at present only 56 percent of the population has access to grid electricity. Even in grid-connected areas there are power shortages of up to 19 hours per day during the dry season.  As a result, the majority of the rural population meets its energy needs through traditional sources such as kerosene, wood, dung cakes and rice husks. The results are environmental degradation and adverse health impacts, particularly among women and children. Rural children are also often denied educational opportunities as they have to instead spend most of their time collecting energy resources.

Expanding the grid in Nepal requires new infrastructure, often located in remote areas at high altitudes. This means it is technically difficult as well as extremely expensive to develop the grid at a rate that matches demand. Solar power has been identified as an alternative energy source capable of filling the gap between supply and demand.

  Trainees installing a solar home system module     

Trainees installing a solar home system module

Solar home systems (SHS) are today readily available in Nepal. To date over 330,000 SHSs have been installed throughout the country. A SHS is defined as a household electricity supply system with a PV panel of at least 10 Wp capacity, connected battery, charge controller and an appropriate number of lights.

With so many systems being installed in Nepal the demand for repair and maintenance technicians has rapidly increased. In recognition of this, a solar PV curriculum – Level 2 – SHS repair and maintenance – is being developed at the Jyoti Vocational Training Centre (JVTC) in Pokhara. This is a nationally recognised qualification certified by the government’s Centre for Technical Educational and Vocational Training (CTEVT).

 A trainee installing a charge controller for a SHS

A trainee installing a charge controller for a SHS

A trainee installing a lighting system in JVTC dorms

A trainee installing a lighting system in JVTC dorms

EWB has provided technical assistance to help implement the new curriculum at JVTC. This has included the development of additional resources for classes, capacity building for JVTC teachers and practical assistance for trainees during classes. EWB’s assistance has resulted in classes on PV system testing, battery maintenance procedures and SHS component fault finding. Basic electronics classes have also been developed and conducted in order for the trainees to have a technical background capable of fault finding components. One class involved creating LED lamps using plastic water bottles. This class gave the trainees the technical knowledge to be able to test and install basic electronics components. It also allowed them to have fun and see how to create something useful using materials that would otherwise be destined for the scrap yard.  

 Solar PV class – replacing a faulty diode in a PV module

Solar PV class – replacing a faulty diode in a PV module

A trainee assisting a local contractor to install PV system in JVTC dorms

A trainee assisting a local contractor to install PV system in JVTC dorms

After completing their classes at JVTC, trainees practiced their skills in the field. They assisted local contractors at ChapaGhat village close to Pokhara to install SHSs in over 40 homes. The experience was valuable to the trainees not only to practice their solar installations, but also to work with local residents and contractors.

The electrical trainees also installed a 120 Wp system in the JVTC girls’ dormitory. The system provides lighting to help the girls study at night.

Words and pictures by field volunteer Alec Leonello




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