Monday, July 25, 2011

Partnering with The Chife Foundation

Good news, folks: Green Islands Solar is set to provide solar charging kiosk(s) for the Chife Foundation next year. Whoo! This means we will head to Nigeria next summer to install the kiosk in Anam City, a prototype sustainable "rurban" African city. Whoo!

My presentation of our group went over well with the Director last week. I framed it as, "This is the energy systems work I've done for you as an intern, but there's much left to be done and our group can help you make it a reality." He was excited by the idea of solar kiosks as a seed project, and amused by my outright pitch for our group. ("So, when's the IPO?" he joked.)

We have yet to work out the financial details for the pilot project. They will pay for materials and shipment, but it's unclear how much they would contribute to fly the installers to Nigeria. These details will be ironed out as we get better cost estimates and a clearer design. However, a partnership on a project receiving international recognition should make it easy to close any gaps with fundraising.

Assembling the presentation prompted questions about our business model. Our work in business development has identified two potential paths for GIS: producer of solar battery charging systems (which leads to mass manufacturing, micro-franchising, etc., a la Fenix Intl.), or standalone solar infrastructure consultants (which leads to customized engineering, design, and installation, a la Inveneo).

With the Chife Foundation, we have the opportunity to serve as energy consultants for their systems design. They are sitting on a contract for a 100kW installation and don't know how it should be used. (My impression is that they don't have an installer, either -- just a supplier.) We could act as the consultants who suggest they use the capacity for X, Y, Z, and here's how it would look. Their PV system design was nonexistent when I came in. While I have provided an array of ideas for how a city may exist as a collection of standalone PV systems (i.e. green islands of a much larger scale), there is much work to be done in providing real design, capacity calculations, construction engineering, etc. Depending on the technical capacity of our team, we could even assist with installation, training, etc., of those larger-scale systems. I am concerned about jumping in over our heads, but hey -- we've done that from the beginning and look where we are!

All of this is very exciting and happening quite fast. I never could have anticipated where this green islands project would end up. Who knows? This could potentially lead to a career, a business. Or at least some fantastic experiences constructing solar installations in rural areas.

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