Turning more sun into more water in Burkina Faso

Our latest blog comes from alumnus Simon Meunier. Simon was part of the MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures class of 2016 and did his thesis on renewable energy systems in rural Bolivia. He has gone on to a PhD and has jumped continents to work on a project to study the socio-economic impact of solar water pumping in Burkina Faso.

The Turning Sun Into Water facility in Burkina Faso.

With your help, in December 2017 we installed a solar water pumping system in Gogma, Burkina Faso. The solar pump now supplies high quality water to 300 inhabitants. Today, we want to update you on what’s going on!

The Turning Sun into Water team

The installation is being continuously monitored as part of my PhD research, supervised by Dr. Judith Cherni at the Centre for Environmental Policy (Imperial College London, UK) in collaboration with the GeePs and SATIE laboratories (Paris-Saclay University, France) and the Burkinabe startup Dargatech. We are working with two types of data:

  • First, technical data (irradiance, water flow, etc.) are being collected by our in-house data logger. Thanks to them, I have been able to validate the technical model of the water pumping system we have developed.
  • Second, socioeconomic data on the impact of the installation on living conditions in the village have been collected through household surveys, both before and after the installation of the solar pump.

My goal now is to use all this data to design solar pumping systems which are more sustainable and better adapted to rural community needs. We will be publishing our first results on the modeling and the optimization of the socio-economic impact later this year.

The project “Turning sun into water” has also allowed 6 students to complete their scientific research in the field of sustainable development and to meet a warm and radically different culture in Burkina Faso!

Vitali Caplain

For example, Vitali Caplain (from the MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures class of 2018) modeled the water demand in Gogma, and proposed operation and payment schemes for solar water pumping systems that fit to the predicted demand. This is of paramount importance since a customised management of such systems allows to significantly improve their socio-economic impact. He went to Burkina Faso to assess the viability of his propositions via questionnaires with local users and key water development stakeholders.

Elvire de La Fresnaye

His classmate Elvire de La Fresnaye looked at the challenge of estimating the cost of water in Burkina Faso for both hand and solar water pumping systems. In addition to applying a questionnaire of semi-structured interviews to a relatively large number of local stakeholders, further primary data on the cost of water pumps were imaginatively resourced near Gogma. Her results allow us to compare both technically and financially hand and solar water pumping systems for off-grid area.

Recently, Thomas Vezin, student from the Ecole Polytechnique (France’s leading “Grande Ecole”), joined the team. He will install soon a new sensor that will measure the water level in the borehole of the pumping system in Gogma. The aim is to better understand the impact of solar pumping on groundwater resources!

Turning Sun Into Water project is now a mature platform with the aims to link research, education, humanitarian and start-ups for sustainable development.

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