Off grid electrification of rural schools

I’m interested in the infrastructure that compliments a rachel deployment and makes it a success.

It seems that at a bare minimum 5v usb charging needs to be available for devices to function.

It seems that theft of poorly secured solar panels is a problem.

I’ll use this thread to dump some research and thinking

This is a report from 2014

This is a report from 2017

It seems like there might be a case for building some partnerships with people electrifying schools? Is this happening?

Some actors in this sector include

Initial idea is buy a £1500 shipping container, add £400 solar panels and weld them to the roof.

Put some strong, padlockable lockers in it that provide 5v usb power for 5 hours when a small denomination coin is inserted.

Provide a secure vending machine that vends 5v power banks, usb lights and decent padlocks at a slight markup (to fund the project)

Drop it next to the school, run a 12v power run into the school using properly sized cables. School pays an affordable rental fee

Kids come to school, they charge up power banks and take them home with them at the end of the day. repeat.

Probably crowdfundable with a local partner who could actually deliver?

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Hi Sam, you have a very valid point of setting up the learning environment with appropriate infrastructure! Energy, Software and Hardware are the basic infrastructures required to change to a blended learning environment. wilearn is packaging these 3 things into a mobile learning lab because in a mobile world we want to enable mobile learning skills. pdf%20-%20Adobe%20Acrobat%20Reader%20DC
The equipment can always be tranferred into a more permanent fixture, once the change of learning behaviour has taken root in a community. With the solar powered moblile learning lab you could enable facilitators, teachers, business and community leaders to use the equipment adapted to their focus area and maximise the time RACHEL is accessable and in service.
We advocate to invest in a fully fletched starter kit including RACHEL CAP, wiFi Android projector, tablets and 4G LTE LAN adapter with a battery backup, so the learning lab can operate at least 5 hrs a day independent of grid power. Our solar power system dedicated to the kit with 120W foldable panel is also fully portable and can be replaced with a local 300W solar panel for more permanent use. So our advise to your question; get your specific learning lab package going before you think of investing into additional building infrastructure! WILLi%20mobile%20Loki


Hi, We (GiaKonda Solar Schools) have been working in Southern province, Zambia since Jan 2015. We started by installing two 80 watt solar panels and a 220ah battery alongside a couple of Raspberry Pi computers one with RachelPi installed.
The latest schools we have worked with have three 320 Watt panels and two 220Ah batteries. we add two or three donated laptops, a good projector and of course Kolibri and RACHEL for the content.
We are currently planning our next visit early 2020 when we shall try a hub of five Raspberry Pis with a TV rather than a projector.
This year we visited the fourteen schools we have worked with so far to try to assess the impact of the project we found the lighting was a big plus allowing for added security at night, adult literacy classes at the schools into the evening and community involvement in the way of entertainment, The Africa Cup of Nations. You can get a flavour of what we are trying to do at
If anyone lives in the uk then we would love to meet up!


Thanks, sounds like a good project.

I guess I’m thinking of an expressly unportable system, with theft in mind.

A delivered shipping container is ~£1500 plus transport, so whilst a fairly big chunk of budget if it solves the theft issue it could be a worthwhile investment.

It’s always good to hear from people with real world experience. Maybe a container is phase 2 once the concept is accepted.

I wonder if there is some middle ground between the approaches?

Perhaps a van vault with solar welded on, secured with 4x corkscrew stakes perhaps? You’d drill 4x holes in the bottom of the box, screw in the stakes, then put in the battery, rachel device etc. Attach an external wifi antenna and lock the box. Run a 12v feed into the main school building.

This could be delivered by 4x4 but still be more secure than leaving stuff in an unlocked classroom overnight

We fix the panels in a cage on the school roof. The batteries, Pi and router are locked in the head teachers office. So far we have had only one theft from the 14 schools. I think the one was taken when the head teacher left. I hope it’s in his new school!
We have found the whole community appreciates the system and work together to keep it safe.