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updated 6:54 AM SAST, Mar 14, 2031
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Off-grid rural home concept launched in Rwanda

UK-based solar-power venture company Bboxx has launched its 2020 solar-powered off-grid home concept in Rwanda. The Bboxx Tomorrow’s Rural Home has a 50 W photovoltaic panel mounted on the roof and can be bought on a three-year payment plan.

The home was created by Bboxx and partners using sustainable building materials and design. It showcases Bboxx’s range of products and services designed to bring the on-grid experience in an off-grid location, according to the company.

The design caters for clean, affordable, reliable energy and is part of a pay-as-you-go solar energy system designed for households and microbusinesses. Bboxx has 50 000 solar home systems in place in Rwanda to date.

The design also includes additional services, such as affordable Internet services with Internet-enabled devices, liquid petroleum gas stoves and canisters, as well as biogas, which are also available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The company designs, manufactures, distributes and finances solar systems to improve access to energy across Africa and the developing world. The rural home design is part of Bboxx’s vision on how new technologies can address needs, transform the lives of off-grid communities and power growth in rural Africa.

“Tomorrow’s Rural Home captures the aspiration of off-grid communities who want affordable utilities to improve their quality of life,” say Bboxx CEO and cofounder Mansoor Hamayun.

Additionally, a cloud-based task management platform helps distributed-service companies, including Bboxx, to manage customer service, predict when product maintenance will be required before faults occur and assist customers with upgrades as their needs grow or change.

“Each unit connects remotely to our central database to support automatic switch-off, predict repairs and assist upgrades,” Hamayun explains.

Bboxx is positively impacting on the lives of 750 000 people living in off-grid communities in Africa and Asia by providing clean, reliable and affordable solar electricity. The company recognises that electricity is the entry point to a broader range of products and services, as well as further economic development, Hamayun says.

Meanwhile, Bboxx and French energy multinational EDF Group, which has a 50% stake in Bboxx’s operations in Togo, won a tender to provide electricity for 300 000 households without access to the Togo national grid. 

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Rwanda to Spend U.S.$1.3 Billion on Railway Project

Rwanda is looking for $1.3 billion to finance its portion of the Isaka-Kigali Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) aimed at reducing logistics costs, boost trade and ease the movement of people.

Lowering the cost of transporting goods is critical for Rwanda in its bid to balance its trade with other countries. Clever Gatete, the Minister of Infrastructure met his Tanzanian counterpart, Isack Kamwelwe, in Kigali on Tuesday to discuss the available funding options for the project.

"We are being supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in terms of technical capacity on how to structure the financing arrangement for the investment because this is not cheap and that is why it is taking long," Gatete said.

Care is being taken in the initial stages, to make sure that "once we start, we don't stop." Specifically, Rwanda is looking for $1.3 billion, Gatete said, to construct the 130 kilometres on its side.

Kamwelwe said: "Rwandans and Tanzanians must rest assured that the two governments are doing everything to make sure that this project is implemented," he said. If it comes to fruition, the project will deliver Rwanda's first ever railway line.

The ministers deliberated on key implementation issues of the project agreed to continue the bilateral discussion on financing options, and develop a project roadmap incorporating the guidance of the Heads of State. They further directed the Permanent Secretaries responsible for Transport to fast track the ratification of the Bilateral Agreement by February, 2019.

Kamwelwe said the project - which will be implemented in six phases - has actually started, in Tanzania, with the first two underway. Tanzania, he said, are using internal resources for ongoing construction. "We have phase one, 300 kilometres and the progress is at 37%.

Phase two is 422 kilometres from Morogoro to Makutupora," he said. According to Kamwelwe, it will be important for both countries to carefully strategize on matters such as how they will recoup the money invested.

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LHWP Phase II ensures employment opportunities in January 2019

The start of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase II advance infrastructure construction at the Polihali dam site, where the Phase II dam will be built, and Katse village, will bring eagerly anticipated employment opportunities to South Africa- and Lesotho-based construction companies and surrounding communities in Lesotho, says Lesotho government organisation Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) CE Refiloe Tlali.

To date, the LHDA, under Phase II’s seven-year construction period, awarded a contract valued at about R394-million to a joint venture (JV) between South African construction company WBHO and Basotho-owned construction company LSP Construction, which is registered in Lesotho. The JV will begin construction on January 9, 2019, while construction is expected to take about two years.

The scope of work at the Polihali dam site includes earthworks and the construction of platforms for buildings, water and wastewater systems, landfill, roads and drainage, as well as an electrical and telecommunications network.

Katse village will have its existing water and wastewater systems, a landfill site, roads and utilities upgraded. Awarding of the contract follows the awarding of the first LHWP construction contract last month to the Sinohydro SA/Nthane Brothers (From Lesotho) JV.

The JV will be responsible for upgrading the existing 16-km-long road that runs from Mapholaneng, in north-eastern Lesotho, to the Polihali dam site, which will enable construction vehicles to enter the site and make movement for communities in the surrounding areas easier. Construction for the Sinohydro SA/Nthane Brothers JV is expected to take 20 months.

LHDA public relations manager Masilo Phakoe tells Engineering News that the construction of the Polihal dam and the filling of the reservoir – which will cover more than 5 000 ha in the valleys and tributary catchments of the Senqu and Khubelu rivers at full supply level of 2 075 m above sea level – necessitates permanent land acquisition, resulting in households being displaced.

Affected households will be compensated, Phakoe adds.

He says some permanent and temporary land acquisition will also be necessary for the construction of support infrastructure such as access roads, power lines, office and residential facilities, as well as labour camps and work areas.

However, Phakoe states that construction during Phase II will provide direct job opportunities for communities in the area. The road infrastructure will improve access to basic services and facilities, reduce travelling time and stimulate local business ventures.

Based on lessons learnt in Phase I, the network of roads that will be constructed will contribute to (increased) tourism in the LHWP areas and lead to new hospitality-related services and products, tour-guide services, food production and transportation services.

The increased mobility is expected to accelerate Lesotho’s already rapid urbanisation, which has been driven by improved amenities, increased prospects and work opportunities, Phakoe concludes. 

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Willow Wood Office Park goes 100% solar

In a drive to convert the popular Willow Wood Office Park in Fourways, Gauteng, to solar, Heartwood Properties have partnered with SolarSaver, who offer a rent-to-own model that does not require any capital outlay in order to reduce the building’s footprint and save on electricity costs.

All indications are that solar energy is the fastest growing alternative energy industry globally. Its adoption is already impacting the way buildings are planned and constructed. No longer is solar an after-thought, rather it is becoming part of the upfront design of new commercial buildings in a drive to construct properties that are energy efficient and cost-effective in the long term.

Heartwood Properties CEO, John Whall: “We realise the potential of solar, and the great relief it will bring to our tenants who won’t have to rely on Eskom’s failing system or be at the mercy of its exorbitant pricing. Solar is also environmentally friendly and as property developers we must reconsider the impact we have on nature.”

SolarSaver finances roof-top solar installations with a proprietary rent-to-own model. Heartwood has not had to finance any solar equipment, design or installation and only pays for the electricity it uses from the solar system. Offering significant cheaper electricity tariffs than Eskom, and tariff increases capped at CPI inflation, solar installations mean that commercial building tenants benefit from reduced electricity bills. SolarSaver also carry out all repairs and maintenance of the system for the duration of the contract term. State-of-the-art live monitoring equipment is included as part of the installation.

The fourth and final phase of Willow Wood is set for completion in March 2019 and will also include a special landscaping feature and a natural space to escape to during lunch or for impromptu team meetings. On site, employees currently enjoy a fully functioning Pilates studio, coffee shop, 24-hour security, back-up power, basement and shade parking with basement stores available.

More information at www.heartwoodproperties.co.za  or call John Whall on 082-459 5553.

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