Interview with our Chief Technical Officer
In August 2018, Matthias Hamann, hep’s Chief Technical Officer, and his colleague Marcus Mook started their mission to gain an overview of the project site in the West-African country Burkina Faso. Returning with a suitcase filled with impressions and a body covered with mosquito bites, the two modeling the photovoltaic system which would be donated by hep. Six months later, two containers containing more than 1,500 kg of material each made their way from Southern Germany via the Netherlands, Spain and the Congo towards Burkina Faso. There, the PV system was installed with the help of locals in July 2019 and, hence, secures emission-free energy for the educational campus.
How did you organize the transport of material to Burkina Faso?That was an exciting experienced! The containers arrived just in time, and not a minute early. We had partnered with a German carrier well known to us. They forwarded us to a second carrier which employed a worker from Burkina Faso. He coordinated the drivers and the customs. At the time of my arrival, the containers hadn’t arrived yet and no one could tell whether and even if this would happen. Luckily, two days later we received notice to pick them up at the toll station. Up to that point, they had gone through two months of travel. Meanwhile, tracking was interrupted several times. In the end, it all went well. Thank God!
What did work on the construction site look like?During construction, our team of six people was supported by many local workers as all material had to be unloaded manually.
The cargo included 140 battery blocks which are about 72 kilograms each. Doing this tough physical work at temperatures of 45 ° Celsius is a very special experience. The hot weather was the reason why we started working at sunrise around four o’clock in the morning.
What else did you experience during your travels?One day, the architect Francis Kéré showed us a medical clinic in the countryside built by him. This trip included five hours of driving on gravel roads and us bumping on wooden benches in the back of a Pick-Up. That was very hot and very dusty. In the village, we went to a local pub where we had mutton stew for lunch. While we were sitting and eating, an open truck carrying a flock of sheep passed along. That was an impressive experience.
Was the PV installation successful?After ten days, we returned to Germany – awaiting the finalization of a roofed and lockable storage room through the school. Then, we quickly returned to Burkina Faso to install the battery storage which was the last necessary step to successfully put into operation the photovoltaic system.
Who takes care of the PV system and how do you manage supply of spare parts?We hired a local technician who is mainly responsible to clean modules of red sand and dust. Before our departure, we set up a storage of spare parts. Generally, solar installations are very durable and do not require a lot of maintenance. Additionally, we are in close contact with our contacts at the school. They know that we are always happy to help and support wherever needed.
What are future steps?What astonished us most was the openness and the kindness of the people. The whole atmosphere was really impressive. Due to the new contacts with set up with the carrier as well as the local community, it is only logical for us to keep up our engagement in the future. The country’s potential and its demand for renewable energies, especially for solar energy, is tremendous.