Nonprofits around the world have spent millions of dollars attempting to bring AC-based microgrids to the billions of people worldwide who live without grid power. These systems are fragile, and when the batteries die, they are prohibitively expensive to replace. Because of this, there are mountains of toxic batteries and other useless solar junk scattered across the developing world. These folks from these nonprofits mean well, but at the end of the day they go home to grid power. They don’t know what it really means to live off the grid. At Living Energy Farm, we know our solar design is dependable, affordable, and the main components last for decades. We know this because we use this system every day.
The DC Microgrid design at Living Energy Farm represents a powerful low-carbon energy solution for the majority of the global population that is not wealthy. We are dedicated to spreading this model to people around the world who live without grid power involuntarily. In the spring of 2019 we installed 7 lighting and charging systems in homes on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. We are planning to install 100 systems in Arizona in the winter of 2019- 2020, and are working towards installation projects in Ghana and the Caribbean in 2020 and 2021.
How you can help
We are raising funds for materials. We can build our smallest kit for approximately $160 in parts. Consider donating to our gofundme campaign
Tax deductible donations can go to Designate Living Energy Farm
Expanding the LEF Model to Arizona and Beyond
We put small solar electric systems in 7 homes in the Navajo Nation in April, and have been raising funds to try to do 100 more this winter. One of the headaches in the
spring project was not having small parts when we needed them. That lead to some last minute purchasing of parts at much higher prices. This time, we have been diligently searching out suppliers for all the small parts. For better or worse, all the small parts we need are being sourced from China. We have almost everything we need, except the most important part — the nickel-iron batteries. We have been negotiating and acquiring samples from a bunch of battery companies (Changhong, Henan Troily, Seawill, ADS, Henan Hengming, Henan Xintainhang, and Ciyi). ADS is in Ukraine, the rest are in China. We are hoping to establish a pilot project in Ghana next year, so it seems to make sense to get a firm grip on the nickel-iron battery market before we make larger commitments.
We brought Manuel Clark (Manny), a Navajo friend, to LEF learn how to build and install our systems. He will be with us through most of September. He’s been great to work with. It is sobering to talk to him about life on the reservation. There are many, many things we take for granted that are just not available for thousands of people who live there, electricity being one of them.
We have also made some good contacts that we are now working with to pull the project together in Arizona, including a Hopi permaculture center, the solar program at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, and the Hopi community development department. This gives us a very good mix of resources on the ground to make the project happen and expand. Our hope in working with Manny (and others in Arizona) is to set them up to buy parts, and build systems in the future without charitable support. It’s great to give help to folks who need it, and even better to leave them in a position to help themselves. It is painful indeed to hear over and over again how folks who live involuntarily off-grid are sold crappy batteries and bad solar systems. Manny has talked to us about the numerous iterations of lead-acid and AGM (another version of lead-acid) batteries they have tried to use. Many only last a few months. That’s what’s happening all over the world. Our systems are small, but they are durable. And the financial costs of using nickel iron batteries to make larger systems is not that huge either. In the process of talking to battery suppliers, we are learning about opportunities for bringing in nickel-iron battery sets larger than the ones we use in the LELCS systems at much more moderate costs than what is available on the retail market.