SOLTRAIN, a regional project on capacity building and demonstration of solar thermal systems in the SADC region, was launched in Lesotho on October 11 at a launch event opened by the Austrian Ambassador, Brigitte Öppinger-Walchshofer, at the Lesotho Sun Hotel in Maseru. SOLTRAIN started in 2009 in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, is financially supported by the Austrian Development Cooperation.
The Lesotho project partner is the Bethel Business and Community Development Centre (BBCDC) located in Mt. Moorosi. Since its inception, this institution has taken the lead in harnessing solar energy for its own purposes, and is teaching solar energy utilization as a core curriculum component. BBCDC also operates a full-fledged energy services sales division which includes photovoltaics (PV) and solar water heating along with comprehensive construction solutions.
The overall goal of this project is to contribute to the switch from a fossil fuel based energy supply to a sustainable energy supply system based on renewable energies. This will be achieved by awareness creation and building up training capacities in Lesotho in the field of solar thermal technology and the improvement of the quality, performance and lifetime of solar thermal systems. In addition, the project aims to support the creation of new jobs for small and medium enterprises and is going to initiate and strengthen political support mechanisms for solar thermal systems in Lesotho.
In the coming 3 years the project will focus on the following three main issues:
Awareness raising campaigns
Focused awareness campaigns on solar thermal systems will be carried out to inform all relevant stakeholders and the interested population about the different applications of solar thermal energy and its positive impact on security of energy supply, poverty reduction, employment creation and the protection of the environment. These activities are embedded in the regional cooperation where shared booklets, brochures, leaflets are published and also a common website is available.
Training courses on solar thermal technology
Up to now, Lesotho does not have an established centre for solar thermal information and support. This is why, focused training courses will be carried out in co-operation with the partner organization BBCDC. For this purpose, two training and demonstration systems will be installed and equipped with monitoring equipment at the BBCD. Planned training programmes range from practical hands-on trainings to a university level course.
Demonstration systems for social institutions
In order to apply the knowledge gained during the training courses and to further increase public awareness, about 20 solar thermal demonstration systems of different sizes and applications will be installed at social institutions and small and medium enterprises in cooperation with local companies.