Strathmore University’s Energy Research Centre (SERC) in partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) are offered an 8-day, Female only Solar Photovoltaic Workshop training, the first of its kind, from 20th – 29th April, 2015. With fundings coming from USAID and PEER Project (partnership for Engagement and Enhancement for Research), the major objective of the VOCTEC training is to strengthen the cadre of qualified professionals and technicians to design, install, operate and maintain stand-alone solar PV Systems.
SERC is licensed to conduct this kind for training: Out of the 100 people they have trained so far, only 3 were women. This was a cause for alarm because the majority of Solar PV used in households are handled by women. After conducting research, it was discovered that most women were not able to afford such trainings due to reasons such as lack of funds. As a result, SERC sought for funding through Arizona State University in order to offer free trainings for women. ASU is known for training women in other countries on the same. With continuous support from interested organizations, and with funding, SERC is set to offer more training of this kind in future.
Solar PV and the Government of Kenya
The Kenyan government requires all Solar PV system technicians and vendors to have licenses for conducting any kind of businesses with this systems. Licenses can only be issued once an individual has attended this technical training and has passed the Policy theory exam offered after the training. This requirement came after the Kenya Renewable Energy Association, conducted a research that pointed out that out of around 300 installed systems only 100 worked. All the others were either spoilt or counterfeits.
Target Group Qualification
Prominent ladies in the energy sectors and teachers interested in conducting such training to empower other women in the solar businesses, are the main target group for this project. About 23 ladies were selected for this first training who applied within the deadline of the call to applicants. Many more applicants applied past the deadline.
One of the outcomes of this training is the fact that the women in training are expected to form small groups that will train other women on the use of the solar PV. This training is important for all women who use solar PV systems even for simple domestic work in households.
For this training the women who attended came from ERC, German Corporation, JKUAT, Nairobi Technical Institutions, Strathmore, and other individuals who work independently. To encourage participation and to ease of funds worry, the women attending are given a small fee to facilitate their transportation to and from Strathmore, as well as accommodation for those who live away from the city.
Key Topics that are being addressed in the training include;
VOCTEC Pre-Assessment; PV Markets and Applications; Electricity Basics; PV Safety Basics; Mobile Training Toolkit; Solar Resources and Orientation; System Components – Batteries, Controllers and inventors, PV Modules; Energy Efficiency and PV System Sizing; Inspection and Commissioning; Operations and Maintenance; Common Failures and Troubleshooting; Advanced PV – Solar Radiation, PV Modules, Batteries and Controller and inverter; Advanced PV – Integration of stand-alone PV system, Energy Efficiency, Stand-alone and hybrid PV system sizing, reliability and standards.
The trainers from Strathmore University and Arizona State University are;
Dr. Govindasamy “Mani” Tamizhmani, VOCTEC Subject Matter Expert for Solar PV Technology, Arizona State University.
Dr. Amika P. Adhikari, VOCTEC Program Manager, Arizona State University
Carol Weis, Arizona State University’s Consultant
Teddy Nalubega, Project Engineer, Strathmore University
How to Apply For Future Trainings
For a successful application the women will need to write proposals that explain why they want to take up the training and how their future will improve through this training. They need to show that they have a technical background in electricity, and they need to have motivation that encourages them to teach other women. They also need to show that they have an entrepreneurial background. Finally, the selected group will need to replicate this training to empower other women.
Apart from training trainers, SERC aims to train a minimum of 240 solar PV technicians in three internationally recognized levels of expertise; T1, T2 and T3. Levels T1 and T2 students are charged Kshs. 14,000 per course, while level T3 students who undertake the hybrid with a big system pay Kshs.100, 000.