Blog of Lorin Symington

GoSol’s full vision starting in Uganda
with Plan International

Posted Tuesday 4 September 2018 by Eva Wissenz, Lorin Symington.

Since the very beginning, the way we see it at GoSol is that we must deliver an efficient and powerful solar concentrator, and a training to users, and… more. Over the past years, we have refined the SOL5 to the point where local entrepreneurs can actually use it daily to save money, increase their incomes, and develop their businesses. And this is happening when it’s sunny, and even on cloudy days depending on the cloud-cover. When it’s not possible to use solar heat in the rainy season, then users can go back to their old system for a couple of weeks. But the impact of polluting industries and climate change’s horrible side effects being what they are (deforestation, drought, people migrating away from the countryside in search for a better life…), something more than a device and training was needed to accelerate the adoption of SOL5: education.

So I’m here in Kisumu, Kenya since about 2 weeks to start a new cooperation with Plan International Finland and Plan Uganda’s SmartUp Factory project. With years of experience building in about 10 different developing countries, after monitoring about 5 baker groups in Kenya and Tanzania over the last two years, with support from Autodesk Foundation to create a construction manual, with a CTO that is also a baker, all our team has build a great educational training course that I’m so happy to share.

It’s good to be back in Kisumu, the team is now autonomous when it comes to producing these solar concentrators and baking equipment. Truly it’s an exciting development and it’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time. So far I’ve been on quality control, checking in with them at their workshop, ordering materials and documenting the progress.

Completion of welding of a SOL5 Oven.

I’ve also been reconnecting with our partners, visiting our newest pilot project and preparing for the upcoming educational and business incubation program with Plan International. I’ll be spending a few weeks at Plan’s SmartUp Factories in two hubs in Uganda. At each location I’ll be working with about 12 young people who are energetic and motivated to have an impact in their communities through innovation and entrepreneurship. Part of the idea with the SmartUp Factories is that Plan recognizes that people from poor communities are uniquely positioned to identify challenges facing their communities and, properly empowered, are the best people to address those challenges.

SmartUp Factory participants. © Plan International.

Given the success of our pilot projects in Kenya and Tanzania, 5 of which are bakeries, we’re going to be teaching a well rounded course combining hands-on training and theoretical knowledge where the students will learn to install, use and maintain our SOL5 concentrators, as well as learn about the science of energy, the impact of our solar thermal tech on environmental and health issues, as well as the baking and business skills needed to run a bakery, or another business of their choice.

A Kenyan solar baker preparing a SOL5 for baking.

In the past we’ve worked with already established bakers, but this time we’ll be training from the ground up. You might remember that I got the chance to bake all sorts of treats in South Africa a few years ago, and I remember the super enthusiastic kids from Greenside Primary School!

In Johannesburg, 300 kids from Greenside Primary School loved the solar baked treats!

I remember also all the creativity of students! Like for example Rorisa, a young entrepreneur. Between that trip and these first feedbacks and today, we are thrilled to see that our vision is becoming true!

On top of this, our CTO Arnaud, has been baking traditional French bread for a couple of years now, developing a deep understanding of the art of baking and the science behind it. He has been coaching me, I’ve baked with our pilot projects, and I’ve started a sourdough culture from scratch that we hope will be pleasing to the people in Uganda because real sourdough bread stays fresh much longer than bread leavened with chemical starters, and so is especially appropriate for a solar powered business.

Preparing sourdough.

We have our ideas about business, but we’re really committed to supporting the students of Plan’s SmartUp Factories to create businesses according to their own ideas of what their communities need. This upcoming educational course is just the first step on a beautiful journey of co-creation.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing stories and examples of success stories from the SmartUp Factories as well as footage and ideas of motivated students who are going to help establish the Direct Solar Economy in Uganda!

 

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In Kenya, rural solar entrepreneurs share on SOL5

Posted Tuesday 29 May 2018 by Lorin Symington.

We’re pleased to bring you the latest footage from our end user entrepreneurs in Western Kenya. Our partners at World Vision Kenya asked the bakers from Afmago Misire Bakery and the Koptige Women’s Group to share their thoughts on their experiences baking with sunlight over the past year.

Misire is using the SOL5 to bake since 2017 thanks to sponsorship from Wärtsilä and Koptige since two years now. For Koptige, it’s always the chief baker speaking. Indeed, David Chepkowny is a very convinced solar entrepreneur, fluent in English and the additional SOL5 his group got since last year will give a good boost.

I’m so thrilled to see our vision for a solar economy becoming a reality. Look how the corn grows right up to the SOL5, using maximum sunlight!

The groups are reporting significant positive impact as well as increased esteem in their communities. They’re very proud to have been featured in one of the national newspapers:

The groups are reporting significant positive impact as well as increased esteem in their communities. They’re very proud to have been featured in one of the national newspapers:

Article: https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/corporate/enterprise/Kisii-group-bakes-livelihood-making-banana-bread/4003126-4561350-67of87/index.html

Thanks to Autodesk Foundation, we’re busy planning new innovations and features that our solar bakers have recommended.

We’re really grateful for everyone in Kenya and everything they do to document and share how reliable, safe and affordable it is to go solar with SOL5.


Update from Kenya projects: Training Entrepreneurs

Posted Friday 23 February 2018 by Lorin Symington.

Last week, members from all the GoSol projects participated in a capacity building training session on Village Savings and Loans Methodology organised by World Vision.

The training session covered such topics as microfinance products, various financial calculations formula, savings habits, best habits for transparency and accountability and a number of other tools for entrepreneurs.

From our experiences working with small businesses in the developing world, the more business skills our entrepreneurs have the more they recognize the value of our SOL5. For example, Koptige bakery last year reported electricity savings over 600€. Among all our pilots, Koptige remains the most dynamic ; click here to see the video we made after 1 year of baking with the SOL5..

When entrepreneurs are keeping good records and calculating their various expenditures it makes the energy savings from using solar energy that much clearer!


Fish dehydrated with solar energy at Bao Beach, Kenya

Posted Monday 28 August 2017 by Lorin Symington.

Food dehydration is an important part of food security and solar thermal tech is the perfect energy source to power food dehydration. In partnership with World Vision Kenya, we have been introduced to the Bao Beach beach management unit, a cooperative that operates within a small fishing community of 300 people located on the shores of Lake Victoria, in the Western part of Kenya. People have come together to do business at Bao Beach. By cooperating, and being business-oriented they have more stability as they fish, dry and sell sardines (known as "omena" locally), Nile perch and tilapia.

The previous method: Woman turning the fish drying on the ground.

Fresh fish only last so long. Without refrigeration fish spoil relatively quickly and so instead, local fishers dry fish by spreading out the fish on nets on the ground. The sun and the wind eventually dry them. Sometimes they are eaten by birds, sometimes the dogs get at them, many flies are on it, the air only flows over the side facing up, so they must be turned often. It amounts to a considerable amount of work, which generally falls to the wife of the fisherman. It can take 2 days to dry the fish, especially if it is one of the two rainy seasons in this part of Kenya. If there is not enough sun, or it rains suddenly, the fish will spoil.

Lorin training the Bao Beach technicians how to prepare mirrors for mounting on the SOL5. Simple materials with careful assembling, can do amazing things.

We have teamed up with the Bao Beach community and equipped them with our Sol5 powered dehydrator. Lorin and Heikki trained 4 technicians from among the young men in the community on how to set up and maintain their solar concentrator. The SOL5 uses high heat, moderated by PV powered high airflow. The product being dehydrated is in an enclosure that prevents flies, dust, birds, dogs, etc., from spoiling the fish. We expect the SOL5 to improve the quality and hygiene of the dried fish, increasing the price on the open market, as well as reduce post harvest losses during the rainy season.

Lorin testing the SOL5 Dehydrator to determine how many kilos of fish fit per tray.

Now, we’re starting to get the first data from the communities and it is exciting to say the least. Unfortunately during the initial installation the concentrator was damaged, but it was recently repaired by our fabricators in nearby Kisumu and the initial reports are very promising. Very soon we’ll share footage of this new application of the SOL5. We’ll be evaluating the profitability of the fish drying value chain in collaboration with World Vision, as well as providing capacity building opportunities for stakeholders to adopt best practices.

Loading omena (sardines) into the SOL5 Dehydrator.

Presenting Results and a New Application in Kisumu

Posted Saturday 15 April 2017 by Eva Wissenz, Lorin Symington.

Last Friday, on April 7th, at the World Vision Lake Region compound in Kisumu we presented 3 SOL5’s to around 65 representatives from a wide variety of NGOs and the Kisumu County government. It was the occasion for our team to present the spirit of our work, its impact since a year and the synergy with our sponsor and partners.

A wide variety of people from different sectors attended the presentation.

Attendees were primarily involved in agriculture, enterprise development, environmental stewardship and poverty alleviation, all very interested in hearing the results of our first pilots installed about a year ago in the area, and curious about the new food dehydrator we’re presenting.

Attendees inspecting the SOL5's and their different applications.

Chief Officer Lorna Omuodo (below) from the Kisumu County Green Energy and Climate Change Authority expressed her vision of making Kisumu the premiere sustainability county in Kenya.

Chief Officer Lorna Omuodo: "Let's make Kisumu the premiere sustainability county of Kenya"

The day was beautiful, though the morning was too cloudy to bake all the goodies Lorin and Heikki (below) had planned, there was enough sun to show the focal point and for people to witness the power of our solar concentrators.

Lorin Symington and Heikki Lindfors of GoSol.org in front of the SOL5 solar concentrators.

We were happy to welcome Mr. George Oywer, from Wärtsilä, who presented his company and their sponsorship of GoSol. Also presenting were Maija Seppala, Chris Asego and Joseph Tinkoi, representing World Vision Finland’s WEconomy Start Program and World Vision Kenya’s livelihoods and resilience program.

To top it off we welcomed back David Chepkwony (below), our first solar (and happy) baker who you met last year. He shared his daily experiences and use of SOL5 oven, making a strong appeal to the county government to GoSol.

Solar Baker David Chepkwony presenting on his experience with GoSol.
David Chepkwony spreading his enthusiasm for solar baking.

Return to Solar Oven in Kenya

Posted Tuesday 4 April 2017 by Lorin Symington.

Thanks to the support of our founding sponsor Wärtsilä we are back Kenya since two months, following up on the pilot projects that we started in cooperation with Weconomy and World Vision about a year ago. It was amazing to re-meet the entrepreneurs after leaving the machines with them for more than 9 months, and seeing that they are still used every day and are providing actual value to these entrepreneurs. Stay tuned.


Solar Oven Landing in Refugee Camp

Posted Monday 27 February 2017 by Lorin Symington.

Our team is honoured and excited to be installing our Sol5 baking system at Kakuma in Northern Kenya in the Turkana region. Trees are slow to grow in normal circumstances and to make things worse the region is in the midst of a long drought. On the plus side, the skies are clear and blue for 300+ days of the year, making Kakuma an ideal area where our tech can have substantial impact on the environment and the livelihoods of both refugees and the local Turkana people.


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