Championing renewable energy use in humanitarian response

from Norwegian Refugee Council
Published on 10 Sep 2013 View Original

NRC in South Central, Somalia is using solar energy for sustainable water provision.

Mutuku Muema (10.09.2013)

A solar-powered system has been set up in Mogadishu with a capacity to pump at least 90,000 litres of water a day.

The solar-powered system consists of a submersible pump complete with controlling devices and delivers a maximum of 9.6 cubic metres of water an hour. The pump is powered by 102 solar panels, mounted on locally fabricated steel structures, providing a total of 9.6 kilowatts.

As a result there has been a significant increase in the reliability of water provision to the local communities of Zona-K camp for internally displaced persons, which is home for more than 9,000 displaced families.

Traditionally, water supply for Zona-K camp is enabled through mechanised boreholes, pumping to various elevated water storage tanks. These are mostly located at the borehole site, distributing to various tap-stands spread unevenly within the camp. Most of the boreholes are privately owned and agencies utilising them cater for the water usage bills. A few others are managed by humanitarian organisations, and the organisations provide fuel and meet other operational costs.

Due to the irregular planning of the settlement, there has been a need for more water points especially along the upper sections of the camp, adding to the challenges. The solar-powered system has provided a solution to many of the challenges witnessed from usage of diesel-powered versions, such as high cost of pumping, high water bills and frequent breakdowns of the mechanized borehole pumping systems.

“The most pressing challenge has always been that of providing water to urban camps for displaced families. They are highly impoverished, highly congested and unplanned areas, with high risks of contagious infections due to poor sanitation and hygiene practices”, says Mutuku Muema, NRC’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Manager in Mogadishu.

Cost cutting

A cost comparison analysis shows that the solar-powered water pumping system is minimising the cost of water provision to the displaced in Zona-K camp by almost 20 per cent, thanks mostly to zero diesel and servicing costs. This is still an advantage despite a higher initial investment cost involving procurement of pumps, panels, generator, installation fees and support structures.

“The project is cutting cost by twenty thousand dollars a year, funds that can be invested into other humanitarian activities”, says Muema.

Funded by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Common Humanitarian Fund, the project has been implemented by NRC's local partner Baniadam with equipment supplied by Solargen Technologies. NRC is in the process of installing two additional solar-powered units of higher capacity, while at the same time monitoring its operation and sharing its best practice and lessons.

Prefered solution

Saynab Ali, who is living in Zona-K camp, is happy with the new system:

“There was little to celebrate here because of lack of water and other basic services. We could not afford the high fees charged by private water suppliers. But thanks to the new solar system I am able to fetch 200 to 300 litres of water. While before I could only afford to get a few litres for drinking, now I can get enough for cooking and washing clothes as well. To me that’s a world of difference”, she explains.

Habiba Ali Omar, who has been displaced from Johwar District, says:

“When I arrived here two years ago, we had to travel to Siliga camp, two kilometers away, to fetch water. For every 20 litres, we used to pay 2000 Somali Shillings (USD 0.125). The water was not always available and we had to queue for long hours. Sometimes we were turned away by the residents of those settlements. It was very time consuming".

"Now, I feel happy and comfortable. We can collect water at our doorsteps at no cost. I can easily send my children to collect water since it only takes about 10 to 20 minutes to get water,” she adds.

The system has also elicited a lot of interest from other humanitarian actors, being the first of its kind to be installed in Somalia for deep boreholes. It is expected to be followed by an increase in installation of similar systems in Somalia.