Today we are looking back at a year of intense R&D, prototyping, piloting and partnership building in Kenya, Finland and the US, taking us from our vision to an actual proof-of-concept.
At GoSol.org we have been working hard to address the need of millions of entrepreneurs in emerging markets who need cost-efficient and sustainable clean energy to run their businesses. We are developing our own solar concentration technology through applications that provide high-quality heat while aiming at a payback period of less than 1 year. Such a market-based solution would allow a massive number of entrepreneurs to take advantage of solar, and provide the fuel for broader societal transformations as we have outlined in the GoSol Manifesto.
As we have reported earlier, since February part of our team is back in Kenya, following up on the pilot project that we started in cooperation with Weconomy and World Vision before Summer. Last May we installed two SOL5 solar concentrators at a bakery and a peanut-roastery. Even though our local partners have been reporting on the pilots regularly, it was amazing to re-meet the entrepreneurs after leaving the machines with them for more than 9 months, and seeing that they are still used every day and are providing actual value to these entrepreneurs.
Starting up in Kenya with Weconomy
Before our Kenya pilots we faced a big challenge: How do we as a Finnish company get in touch with low-income entrepreneurs to pilot our solar tech in emerging markets? How do we make sure to get the right entrepreneurs, how do we monitor the situation from a distance, how would we provide additional support if needed? Enter Weconomy, an initiative by World Vision Finland who operates in Kenya (among other countries). As one of the world’s largest NGOs, World Vision recognizes that they can play a crucial role by facilitating piloting activities for impact-oriented companies like ours, and they are offering this through their Weconomy program.
Weconomy contributed significantly to the success of our Kenya pilots and their support can be key for any impact-oriented company. Because World Vision Kenya has been supporting the creation of lending groups and business cooperatives in Kenya for a long time, they are well connected to local entrepreneurs and know the capacitation process it takes to set up new business activities. In the planning phase of the project it was Weconomy who identified the suitable entrepreneurs and project sites. They identified the workshop to construct the machines, arranged the transport and capacity building sessions, and connected us with other stakeholders in the country once the the machines were installed.
Proofing Solar Entrepreneurship
When we left the country after a few weeks, a new seed was planted. Now started the monitoring phase where Weconomy would actively facilitate local World Vision Kenya staff to collect user data to help us measure our impact. So without having our own staff on-site and without relying entirely on the entrepreneurs for self-monitoring we were able to gather data to proof our impact.
The data we gathered speaks volumes, and we’ve already shared some in a blog post earlier, but even better is to hear it directly from our entrepreneurs themselves. This year we’re back in Kenya and we have interviewed one of our end-users on his experience with GoSol as a baker, and this is what David had to say:
New Energy for 2017 – Kenya and Tanzania!
Few days ago we officially announced our founding sponsor: Wärtsilä. Through this sponsorship, Wärtsilä has committed to support African societies and businesses and is backing our piloting projects in Kenya and soon Tanzania and the scale-up of our solution through pilots and education.
With their support, we are boosting our piloting in rural areas, but for the first time we are also entering a refugee camp where our technology could play a key role in alleviating energy poverty in short future (see video). This year we will also be entering Tanzania for the first time with a local partner, continuing to develop and adapt our technology to the needs of real-world entrepreneurs.
As we move forward, we wanted to take this moment and reflect on the last months and what we have accomplished. With the genuine feedback from our entrepreneurs in Kenya and the data gathered in cooperation with World Vision and Weconomy, we are now at a point where we can say that through GoSol.org, Solar Fire Concentration is supporting real-world solar entrepreneurs. As we move forward we want to thank all the entrepreneurs, supporters, sponsors and partners that have allowed us to get this far.