Access to power and ICT is a key challenge for communities in the developing world and remote locations. As well as the need to access utilities for basic essentials such as having power for homes, schools and hospitals, it is also a requirement to enable communities to develop economically and socially. With the aim of contributing towards this challenge, The Happold Foundation are proud to have provided grant funding to help enable the design of the Solar Berry project, a community owned off-grid computer lab that is powered by solar energy.
The project is led by the Turing Trust, a Scottish charity that operates in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. Constructed using recycled shipping containers, the Solar Berry labs provide isolated communities with access to IT, promoting education and training. The use of solar power means that the cost of running the labs can be kept to a minimum, while also providing power for the use of the wider community.
The first part of the project involved the Solar Berry team and engineers from BuroHappold working together to create a robust and affordable design for the hubs. Choma secondary school, situated in a remote mountainous area of Malawi, was selected as the location for the pilot Solar Berry, and workshops with the local community to demonstrate how the lab works began. The addition of the Solar Berry has the potential to significantly improve the lives of the students and the wider community, as currently the area has no utilities or IT equipment available.
The Happold Foundation provided Grants for Good Ideas funding for Chris Short and Antoine Dao from BuroHappold to visit the country to help finalise the design and to hold workshops with the local community and school staff to gain an understanding of how the lab and the solar power will be used. Working alongside the fabricators and a local charity, The Centre for Youth and Development (CYD), the engineers were then able to refine the design of the Solar Berry to ensure the structure was strong and secure, and explore different off-grid energy models to ensure a reliable and long-term supply of power.
The Solar Berry is going to be an invaluable resource for the local community. As well as providing power to enable students to gain an education in IT, the solar energy can also be used to charge car batteries for the local community, which are used to power electrical appliances in the home.
To find out more about the project, read the SolarBerry report.