Area electricity cooperative gives electricity to small town in Africa

Project helps about 400 people who live in the community

SAN ANTONIO – The utility Bandera Electric Cooperative (BEC), a nonprofit, said they brought electricity to the town of Totota in Liberia and is now working to bring electricity to another community in Uganda. 

William Hetherington, CEO of BEC, said the microgrid was built in the United States and allows the local economy to benefit from the project. 

"All of the electronics, all of the technology is housed within traditional cargo shipping container, 20-foot shipping container. The panels, everything, was shipped in the container and when the container gets there, they pull the panels out, put in the solar, and then plug it in. Most all the equipment, the battery, the energy storage side is inside the container itself," Hetherington said. 

Hetherington said a group in Virginia, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International, contracted them to provide an energy solution for the town. 

"Financially, our association would cover all our costs. We would generate revenue for Bandera Electric Cooperative. That revenue cut flows back to our members which reduces the need to ask them for money to cover the electric bill," Hetherington said. 

Miguel Rivera, a program manager for BEC, was part of the project that changed the town forever. 

"Over there it’s a luxury item, they don’t have appliances it’s a struggle to find what their next meal is going to be," Rivera said. 

The project helped about 400 people who live in the community of Totota. 

"We designed our microgrid system with energy storage with batteries, solar and also coupled it with a diesel generator," Rivera said. 

The microgrid that were created for Totota are now being run by Totota Electric Cooperative. This newly formed cooperative was created specifically after the microgrid was placed.  

"Now with electricity, some of the local people that we interviewed were thinking of ways how they can use electricity to either start a business, expand the work hours for the businesses that were already there," Rivera said.

Hetherington said they are hoping to bring more electricity to a community in Uganda. The initial design is underway. 

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