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Power Turtle provides secure solar power to off-grid rural schools

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Most schools in urban South Africa are fortunate enough to have a steady supply of electricity, but unfortunately rural schools aren’t as lucky, which has a severe impact on children’s education.

With this in mind, Ugesi Gold approached the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) in 2015 with a brand new way to provide schools with solar electricity – especially in areas that experience high levels of crime and vandalism.

This is where it’s Power Turtle comes in – a container-based solar power system that houses all the innards in a super secure way.

As the morning sun rises, it triggers sensors that roll out the solar panels, engineered on a special rail system that deploys them in mere minutes. At night, the same happens in reverse where the panels roll back into the reinforced 6m shipping container for safe keeping.

Currently in a pilot phase at Pheasant Folly Primary School, it has 16x 300W solar PV panels (4.8kW), the latest Freedom Lite lithium batteries and top-of-the-range 8.5kW Schneider solar technology.

“With no grid connection, Pheasant Folly Primary School is powered by expensive generators which are not sustainable within the school’s financial budgets, given that fuel alone costs more than R2000 per week. This is clearly not an ideal situation for the school or the environment, so a solution was desperately needed to facilitate affordable energy access and continued learning,” the company explained.

With the attendance of the President’s Office, Gauteng Province, Department of Energy, Department of Education and the IPP Office, the Government of South Africa will officially inaugurate the Solar Turtle at the off-grid school in the informal settlement of Palm Ridge at 10am on 2nd March 2016.

The government is so keen on the idea of the Power Turtle, that the President’s Office, Gauteng Province, Department of Energy, Department of Education and the IPP Office will all be in attendance next week to officially inaugurate the Solar Turtle.

The setup of the Power Turtle plays into the plans of government, as it has to provide off-grid schools with a way to keep the lights on, but it needs to be in a way that combats crimes. By the government’s count, there are about 2 500 school which are currently completely off-grid.

“PowerTurtle is the first step towards secure, reliable and sustainable electricity for schools like Pheasant Folly Primary School. The unique PowaPod design allows a series of solar panels to unfold from the confines of a secure 6m shipping container, and back again at night. With this extra security the panels are set to outlast the harsh realities that off-grid schools face. By launching the PowerTurtle in Palm Ridge we hope to show the potential of not only secure electricity for the school but an energy solution for the whole community. I would just like to thank our friends at AMSolar and RexiVista that help bring the PowerTurtle to life,” said James van der Walt of Ugesi Gold and the developer of SolarTurtle.

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.