The Maasai Stoves & Solar panel-based electrical systems

Women's Installation Team members installing solar panels

Women’s Installation Team members installing solar panels

Our stoves are wood-burning, so what is the “solar” in “Maasai Stoves & Solar”?

In addition to providing stoves, we install solar panel-based electrical systems for lighting and cell-phone charging. This brings good indoor lighting to the homes of the Maasai in villages which do not have access to the electrical grid. We also work with settlement-wide solar panel-based electrical systems for shared power, bringing light to many more people. And read about portable solar-based pumping for help for herders and farmers.

Why the solar systems are important?

We import solar systems with panel, light, battery, and a phone charger. We pass them along, at our cost, to those customers who have purchased a stove for their home.

It is dangerous and inconvenient to have to light an open fire at night for interior lighting. Kerosene, a previous alternative, pollutes and has a bad odor.

A light bulb with an internal battery that is charged during the day makes night-time light a simple household pleasure. Schoolchildren can get their work done at night. Mothers tell us that taking care of a sick child at night becomes easier with such a system.

All the Maasai, women and men, have mobile phones which improve their lives, making planning and coordinating with colleagues possible. A solar panel in their homes allows them to charge their phones at no additional cost.

Solar system features

  • There are 12-volt systems with excellent LED bulbs with internal batteries that can be on all day  in use in the dark house and still charge enough to be used 3-4 hours into the night
  • ·        Because the energy storage battery is inside the light bulb, the bulb can stay lit when detached from its normal charging wire. It may be carried around inside or outside to be used as a torch.  It can also be hung anywhere in the house, in any of its tiny rooms, or over the place where the children read or study.   It can then be put back on the cable to the panel for charging later

  • Even a 3 or 5-watt panel can be enough to drive such a system. A simple charger that drops the voltage to 6 volts is perfect for cell phone charging, but the phones can only be charged when the sun is shining
  • Since Monduli district is at the equator, orientation of the panel is just horizontal. And it is easy to pass the wire from the panel down through the thatch into the house
  • LED and battery technology is a rapidly improving field. There are excellent systems one can import from Germany or China that are affordable for the Maasai on an installment basis

Maasai Stoves & Solar system maintenance

  • Simple solar systems are essentially indestructible. When the capacity to charge the light and mobile phone at the same time begins to diminish, householders must check their panel for dust and dirt
  • The installation team mounts the system high on the roof, up near the peak, and runs the wire directly down through the thatch. The panel is far from children’s hands and the wire safe from entanglement

Portable solar-powered pumping

Solar-powered pumping for watering cattle

Watering cattle with portable solar-powered pumping

We will soon receive a shipment of 200 portable, high quality, military surplus solar panels on their way to us from Last Kilometer Solutions of Detroit.

In preparation, we are developing pumping systems to solve problems for herders and farmers working in difficult environments. The systems will use these panels along with 12 and 24-volt submersible pumps.

The herders need to water their cattle without walking them miles across dry terrain. There are places where herders can dig boreholes that fill with water. However, getting the water up to the place where the animals can reach it can be slow and difficult.

We are developing and testing inexpensive pumping systems. If successful, the plan is to have the herders purchase the systems and the Project would provide the necessary panels.
When the system’s panels are not being used in the field, they can power home lighting. This portability allows for an efficient, life-changing dual arrangement.

Irrigation is another potential use for the portable panels. Sometimes there is water in a bore hole, or nearby flowing ditch. The portable panels could be used to move that water into the field.

Funded, in part, with the 2016 Annual Appeal donations, we are making good progress with our experiments with both delivery methods.