O&M Story — Getting to the Root of a Wiring Problem in Rural Nigeria

Ukeme, Project Engineer, going to a minigrid community on the island via boat

This week, we’re happy to share the story of our third-prize winner, Ukeme Asuquo. She is a Project Engineer for A4&T Power Solutions in Nigeria. Ukeme says “As frontliners ensuring access to energy in rural communities in Nigeria, we are inspired and committed to seeing more lives change. The future is energy. This is my O&M story.” Read her story to learn more about how she and her team navigated around O&M challenges in a pandemic world!

The development of a hybrid solar mini-grid in Ondo state, Nigeria brought about access to electricity Ugbonla community after 25 years. This project was commissioned on 9th February 2020. Before, several individuals used generators as a means of power generation and relied on charcoal, coal for cooking, thereby increasing the emission of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere. These have a ripple effect on the economic development, health, and social well-being of the residents. In addition, local farmers struggle to meet market demands of cold drinks, dry fish, and frozen foods due to a lack of a drying and cooling system for storage.

Our 30kWp smart hybrid solar mini-grid based on PV+batteries Genset for power generation gives 238 connections access to reliable and affordable electricity. As part of our sustainability plan, we trained residents of the host community to serve as local operators for the mini-grid sites. The training focuses on an introduction to solar PV technology, best practices during installation, operations, and maintenance of power systems, including the safety measure to adopt. Local operators learned how to operate solar equipment, carry out first-level troubleshooting with supervision after 6 months, and even teach customers about energy efficiency and energy conservation. To ensure that their knowledge is not outdated, we organized regular followup training for the operators.

(L) A4&T team performing testing in the powerhouse; (M) A4&T team inspecting the solar arrays, (R) Ukeme giving a training

In the heat of the pandemic and COVID constraints, we received a fault alert on the system that resulted in an unplanned power outage caused by a sudden back-feed from the distribution line. Two engineers and the local operators were on-site for 3-days to carry out the troubleshooting on-site and remotely.

The team first worked on locating the source of the fault in order to correct it. We started by first de-energizing the power lines and energizing each phase of the 3-phase network at a time to identify which of the 3-phases it was located. We then further isolated individual service lines connected to the identified fault location to know the exact service line causing the back-feed on that phase. The next test we did was energizing 2-phases first with customers and then adding the third phase connecting one customer at a time. Finally, having identified the service line with the issue, we isolated and carried out a further test on that service line while powering on the other customers. We analyzed the fault and discovered an issue in the house wiring connection. After advising the affected customer on best practices, he consulted a licensed electrician to correct the house wiring. These allowed the local operators to learn how to troubleshoot similar issues and educate customers.

(L) Village electrician fixing household wiring (health and safety practices not condoned by A4&T or illu); (R) A4&T team at the minigrid village

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illu is a work management platform for teams deploying, operating, and maintaining distributed renewable energy (DRE) systems

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illu is a work management platform for teams deploying, operating, and maintaining distributed renewable energy (DRE) systems

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