O&M Story — Keeping Unwanted Guests away from Meter Boxes in Kenya

illu launched our O&M story contest to hear real stories from the ground from people keeping remote power systems online, and we’re so glad to have received so many from technicians all over the world! We have previously shared the winning story as told by Swan Htet, an O&M technician in Myanmar. This week, we’re happy to share the runner-up story!

illu
3 min readOct 25, 2021

The second prize of the contest went to Julius Machira for sharing his story of when he was working at Powerhive East Africa. Learn more on how Julius and his team employed innovative tactics to keep unwanted guests away from the meter boxes.

Pictured: Julius Machira (second from left with the orange hard hat), second-place winner of illu O&M Story Contest

The story happened in one of the microgrids in the remote sites of Kisii, Kenya. The system is 10 kWp. The issue happened with some Powerhive’s Smart Meters that were mounted atop poles. The meter boxes had a mustard cover and were name-coded Asali meters. (Asali means honey in kiswahili).

Powerhive meter box mounted on top of pole

The problem was that bees were entering the meter boxes through gaps in the cable glands and building honeycombs on the vertical circuit boards. In the process, the nectar from the bees shorted electronics in the meter and effectively destroyed several units before we found a solution. Come to think of it; maybe the bees were smart enough to read ASALI from the cover and knew that it meant honey. That is why they chose to live there and create all the mess. The company lost millions due to the bees’ menace but we found an easy solution to mitigate the damage.

The solution was as easy as sealing the cable glands or any gap with silicone sealant. However, since silicon was adding cost to the opex, we decided to go with a zero-cost of stuffing styrofoam used in packaging those meters and it worked. We just pinched off a small piece and stuffed it into any gap and empty cable glands and voila! Problem solved. No more meters were lost because of bees. We also made sure to include this as a step in the meter installation manual.

Bees in the Meter Box

Fun fact: The honey was so sweet on the meters that were infested. Probably we should have carried a few loaves of bread to the site to make sandwiches.

Honeycombs on the vertical circuit boards

illu can help with similar problems like this in microgrid O&M by helping manage the dispatch of technicians to catch, report and fix problems. The additional step to seal cable glands can be integrated into the Standard Operating Procedures or manuals through our “workflows” feature. Learn more about workflows here.

--

--

illu

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