Project of the American African Nuru Foundation and the Sunpower Foundation

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Up and Running

Quick update for everyone from the last trip to the school,

The system is up and running and has been for three months now. They are using the power for all the intended uses(lights, fans, phones, etc.) plus devising new ones including shaving heads on the weekends. A few students have even started to stay at the school some nights to study and not spend hours walking back and forth from home. Here is a flick of the power room when I was there:

As for the interns, we have some delays from our friends over at the Department of Homeland Security, they are being strict with the visas. We are going through some fundraising to try and pay for process of bringing Jonathan and Maxmillah over to the Solar Living Institute. We need $2,400 to cover the additional costs of certifying the institute to be allowed to offer an exchange visa. Please
help by donating today!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Upcoming Event

Come one, come all to the upcoming celebration.

The Solar Maasai / SunPower to the People Team has returned from Maasailand with stories of a successful, yet challenging, endeavor! The Emprukel schoolhouse near Enoosaen village in rural Southwestern Kenya now has light, fans, vaccine refrigeration, computers, and electrical outlets for the first time. The school is already attracting new, credentialed teachers, more students, and the interest of Kenyan parliament as a model of future rural schoolhouse solar electrification! The school is well on its way to becoming a hub of educational excellence in this remote Maasai region of the Transmara district, and expansion plans are already underway. The US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, was in attendance at the grand opening ceremony and made a personal promise to the community to fund the much needed school improvement projects of glass window installation (a rare architectural feature in this region) and the replacement of the makeshift desks which currently fill the seven classrooms. After a month-long series of close calls and unforeseen obstacles (and 18 months of planning prior to arriving in Kenya), the 5kW off-grid SunPower solar electric system has now been realized. While the system was not technically finished by the opening day celebration (inverters hadn’t yet cleared customs in Nairobi), the lights did come on when Ambassador Ranneberger received the honor of flipping the main power switch to officiate the ceremony (wheew, it was seriously close, good thing we arrived before dawn to rewire the system with a temporary inverter!).  The One Million Lights foundation was also in attendance to present solar powered LED lanterns to each mother of an Emprukel school student!

 Emprukel valley illuminated at night for the first time. Taken from the adjacent hilltop, the spots of light are LED lanterns spread across the valley, and the long strip of light in the middle is the illuminated schoolhouse in the distance.

During our stay in Kenya, we also led a month-long PV training intensive and graduated 17 solar technicians from the village and surrounding area. The top female and top male students – based on final exam scores, solar enthusiasm, dedication to the project, and demonstration of leadership in the community – were awarded with internship positions at Northern California’s pioneering solar school and demonstration site, the Solar Living Institue in Hopland. We look forward to returning to the village in March to tune the system, install the remaining monitoring equipment, and pick up the internship recipients, Jonathan Ntuitiai and Maxmillah Nairesiai. See video, "The Next Phase - Education" below for an introduction to Jonathan and Maxmillah.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The next phase: Education

Dear Solar Maasai Supporters,

As you know, we trained, tested and graduated students in solar and electrical while working in Kenya. However, this is not the end of the road for our brave scholars. Two of them, one female and one male, were chosen for their exceptional performance, great attitude and solid character to pursue further education. This education comes in the form of attending the Solar Living Institute, the training and demonstration site that both Kevin and I originally learned the ropes of renewable and sustainable practices from. Now these two amazing Maasai are getting the opportunity to attend. Their names are Maxmillah and Jonathan and this video, produced by random pictures, introduces them better than I can.

Solar Massai - Meet The Interns from Random Pictures on Vimeo.

They will be starting their program in early March, so keep a look out for a chance to meet them. They will in California for nine months so there will definitely be events where they will be around. Also stay tuned for our next event coming up on the 30th of this month, more info later this week.

Ashe Oleng,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Star is Born

Can you identify the picture above?
Is it the night sky? The deep sea?

No, its Emprukel Primary school from the adjacent ridge at night.

That's right, the valley is lit for the first time. The central longer light is the school
building and the outlying lights are the solar lanterns distributed to the households.
Thanks to our friends in Kenya, at Sunpower and at One Million Lights, this remote
community is well illuminated as never before. You can't hear the cheers in this picture
but I can assure you that from where it was taken, you can hear the excitement.

The solar install is complete now, the team members have all returned to the their
respective homes for the holidays. After having checked in, everyone is in good health
and spirit and grateful for experience.

I personally would like to thank everyone involved, the thousands of hands that went into
making this project what it is and will continue to be for this community.

Its not over though!
We still have a documentary to be launched, 2 students from the village to bring back to
solar training here in the states and more families and schools to help! We also have to
wish Kimeli well as he departs at the end of next month for his studies in Australia.
So 2010 looks as busy as ever for our team and the various organizations in involved.

Thanks again to all of our sponsors and supporters that made this all possible.

Stay tuned for the film being edited currently by random pictures. I will post and email
our email list when its ready.

Assante Sana,

Friday, December 4, 2009

Video Blog, Week 2 - part 1

Solar Maasai Week 2 part 1 from Michael Goode on Vimeo.

the next installment of the short documentary series.

Monday, November 30, 2009

First week of the install

First, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with their families, and we were certainly thinking of ours, as we completed the array install and finished the day with the normal Kenyan meal of ugali, goat, and rice. Second, my apologies for not getting this out sooner! It’s been very busy since our arrival in the village last weekend, rarely a moment to connect to the internet or sit alone long enough to write an update. Everyone is intrigued by our visit here, especially to welcome Kimeli’s return and his accompanying “mzungus” (Barret, Geoffrey, Michael, and I), so there has been a steady stream of local friends, villagers, and elders making the trek (usually miles by foot) to come visit with us.

Our journey from Nariobi to Enoosaen village began 2 Fridays ago, November 20th, after we unexpectedly experienced 4 days of delay clearing our shipment of PV equipment from the States through customs in Mombasa. On the 4th day of delay, we were told by our freight forwarder to meet at their Nairobi warehouse, 9:00 AM, to pick up our goods. Upon our arrival, we were told that the truck would be arriving in 10 minutes. So we waited “10 more minutes” again and again for 4 hours, finally demanding a search party go out and track down the truck. Since the drivers weren’t responsive to the managers’ calls, the growing theory between both our crew and Jihan Freighters was that the drivers had taken our gear hostage for ransom. This may sound absurd, but we were duly warned about this and other forms of corruption being rampant throughout Kenya. Twenty minutes after Barrett and the Jihan representative left in pursuit, the box truck came bouncing in the pot-holed, eroded dirt driveway. Naturally, our crates were at the front of the truck, so we waited some more while every other piece of cargo, non-crated, were removed individually by hand. By the time our crates were ready for unloading, we had become calloused to the reckless driving of the warehouse forklift driver, and were eager to have our equipment tranferred into our truck for the cross-country trek to rural Enoosaen.

The boxes were unloaded, and almost everything looked good. There was a gash in the top of the heavily wrapped module pallet, and upon further inspection we realized that a crate had been carelessly maneuvered onto the top of our “DO NOT STACK” module pallet, damaging the top module. The irreplaceable 12 volt compatible SPR-90 (SunPower stopped producing in 2008), brought along to provide power for our tools and camera equipment throughout the installation, was irreparably damaged – no, smashed. As the forklift driver quickly swooped up the rest of the pallet to load onto our truck, we stood paralyzed as he placed the pallet partially into the truck, tilted the forks up to reposition, and used a purely Nairobi-forklift-driver maneuver to use the module pallet to push 3 pallets stacked behind it beyond the threshold of the rear cargo door. The resulting crunching sound could only be the tips of his forks protruding up through the bottom of the pallet into the glass laminate of the bottom module in the stack. Kudos to Alyssa Newman, Director of the SunPower Foundation, for scoring the extra 2 modules for our project, just in case. Safe.

We left Jihan Freighters about 5 hours after our arrival there and headed to our local electrical sub-contractor to pick up the “load-side” equipment - all the lights, fans, switches, outlets, and misc. wiring gear we decided to source locally (for the purposes of local compatibility and serviceability). Luckily, this hand-off went according to plan and we were off on our 8 hour drive to Enoosaen.

We arrived at Jackon’s home, Kimeli’s brother, in Enoosaen at about 2 AM on Saturday morning, took a rest for a few hours, then proceeded to move the truck as close to the school as possible before moving the 2 tons of equipment the rest of the way by hand and foot. Facing challenges every step of the way – including an ominous mud pit (yes, we got stuck), we were able to get the truck within about a kilometer from the school.

Our arrival spurred an enthusiastic welcome, and the students and villagers managed to transport the entire contents of the truck the final uphill kilometer in less than an hour. Many hands do make quick work, as long as they’re well organized. We spent the next several days working out kinks in the organization of our installation crew – 20 local twenty-somethings, trained for the prior 3 weeks by Barrett Raftery (using a brilliant off-grid solar design/install curriculum developed by SunPower’s own Mark Mrohs, specifically targeted for rural village technicians). After a bit of trial and error, we managed to sculpt the team into a venerable construction crew, led by Construction Manager extraordinaire, and SunPower RLC Commercial System Inspector, Geoffrey Shuey. With this team, we could easily stay in Kenya and start the first African SunPower Dealer!

Disclaimer: the following paragraph may be a bit technical for some readers, my apologies in advance!
It turns out that it is possible to use a 40+ volt SunPower module in a 24 volt battery/inverter off-grid system, we learned this out of necessity. When we lost our SPR-90 module back at Jihan, we knew we would have to improvise with the charging of our cordless power tool batteries. After we blew out the battery chargers of each of the afore mentioned cordless drills - in a series of disconnected follies (lesson: more than a 50 watt step down transformer should be used when powering a 120V cordless drill battery charger with a 230V supply) - we had to step up our creative solution generation machine. We rented a 24 Vdc, 230Vac battery inverter and a 230V corded drill
from Nariobi, and carefully wired 2 parallel SPR-230s to only utilize 2 of the 3 cell strings (caution: this may void module warranties!), giving us ~28 volts – enough to push current onto the 24Vdc system. Manually charge controlling by disconnecting and reconnecting the PV inputs by hand when the battery reached certain voltage trigger points, we were able to bleed off any surface-cell-polarization by connecting the positive leads to ground when the modules were “floating.” And this, my eco-conscious, solar friends, is how we avoided using a petrol generator to power the installation of the Emprukel school PV system J.
We worked through some more challenges last week, including a shortage of hangar bolts for roof array mounting, the loss of 32 GB of choreographed group photos and documentary video footage, and daily afternoon rain showers, to name a few. We did, however, manage to successfully install the solar array, battery bank, lights, fans, switches, outlets, and associated wiring. This week, we are crossing our fingers that our inverters will make it out of Germany, clear customs, then make the trek from Nairobi to Enoosaen in time to be installed and operational by our December 5th grand opening. It’s going to be close, but synchronicity has been on our side this far along and we’re hoping for the best. We will also be making finishing touches on the system and spending time reviewing the training materials with our local technician team. We have prepared an Off-grid PV Design and Installation course certificate for the team to provide them with credentials for entering the growing Kenyan solar industry. The program includes 4 weeks training, including 2 complete installs - the 5kW school install and a small, single panel, DC system for the caretaker’s home, concluded by a final examination we will be administering this Wednesday. They have completely surpassed our expectations and we are confident we will be graduating 20 new solar technicians this week!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Video Blog, Week 1 - First Installment of the Documentary Series

The first installment of the Solar Maasai Project's weekly short documenatary series introduces us to the different sides of Nairobi, Barrett seeks out the right printer to produce the certificates to give to the graduates of the Solar Training, and visits Mombasa to await the shipment of the solar panels. All in preparation for the rest of the team's arrival...

Solar Maasai Week 1 from Michael Goode on Vimeo.

These shorts are edited series showcasing the work that Solar Maasai has completed in the previous week, therefore, are not necessarily the most current news of the project. They will be updated on a weekly basis, but there is some delay from when things happen to the finished video.

Have a sunny week!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A special video update

Our first internally produced video update. Watch out
for another later this week.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Final touches

The community puts a few final touches on Emprukel Primary School before the solar shipment arrives.

Left to right: Securing a room for the batteries, receiving input from the elders.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

down time

It's interesting to see how children entertain themselves in the absence of television and video games. Creative energy abounds. To the right, the kids (and I) play in some beans.
Granted, the usual means of entertainment seem dull in the presence of mzungus (swahili for white folk), who seem to be a never ending source of entertainment. We look funny, we talk funny, we dress funny and we're enthralled by the simplest of things-like sunsets.

But really, look at these-

I just don't see that everyday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lets not forget about class!

The first segment of class was a great success! We rounded out the end of last week with a party to celebrate everyone's hard work and dedication.

Fresh goat and banana! (When I say fresh I mean slaughtered for the occasion in the previous hour)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Smiles for miles

Upon greeting the people of Enoosaen, I've encountered some of the biggest and brightest smiles imaginable. The frequency of greeting is much higher than in the United States, but at no cost to quality. I find it very refreshing how authentically happy people are to converse with one another. When they pass eachother in the streets, they make sure to stop, allowing enough time to properly greet one another- be it a handshake, hug or the submission of one's head to an elder for blessing. Smiles here have been of particular interest to me for a few different reasons. Their intensity and obvious beauty being first and foremost, second comes the sharp contrast to the serious default demeanor of Africans in general. If you've ever heard the saying "black people don't smile in pictures", my guess is it's partly attributed to the frequency of serious facial expressions. Until you actually approach someone for conversation, you might even think they wanted nothing to do with you. This is hardly the case.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Passing through the Mara

So a few days ago we were passing through the Maasai Mara, which is the biggest game park in the world. We happened to come by a few supporters of the project.

We also almost gotten eaten by lions, no joke! The car got stuck and we were surrounded by at least four lions maybe more. But we made it through safely and are now safely back in Nairobi securing supplies and awaiting the arrival of the rest of the team.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Sky Opens Up

A thousand prayers were answered this evening when rain finally came to Enosean. A few quick taps on the tin roof quickly turned into a downpour as Barrett and his solar students paused for a moment to give thanks. Jackson, the man of our host house, was days away from losing his entire crop due to draught. As his major source of income- an idea introduced to the Maasai in the last 100 years- this would have been detrimental to his health and that of his families’. I walked outside to get a taste of my first Kenyan rain, and as I looked up I noticed that it looked as if the sky had actually opened up to deliver us this precious gift. Today, October 28, we breathe a long sigh of relief.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We love the kids!

Just a few pictures of that are too great not to share.

What are we teaching?

Some of you might be wondering what are we teaching in this class that I am posting about,
so here is some clarification.

Its a six day class that's structured as follows:

Day 1:
Introductions of people, class structure, calendar and a very basic overview
of solar electricity.

Day 2:
The Small Home Solar System: a small DC only solar electric system sized
for the average local home. Enough electricity for some lights and a tv or radio.
Basic Electrical including Watts, Volts, Amperes and Ohms.
What is a solar panel and how does it work?

Day 3:
Batteries: the types, maintenance and how they are rated
Charge Controllers: What they are, what they do, and what makes for a good one.
Wiring: How to do it well and why doing it well is important.

Day 4
System Sizing: getting the right amount of electricity for your devices
Maintaining the entire system and trouble shooting
Installation of a Small Home System

Day 5
Business idea surrounding solar, how to run a micro solar business
Basic business skills and accounting

Day 6
Wrap up and extended question time
Preparation for the hands on installation that will be happening the following week.

That's the program. This is just the theory part of the class, it is followed by two
weeks of actually installing a system on a school which is the practical part. Then
we have a few more days of training afterward to establish maintenance routines
and to answer any questions raised during the training.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Schedule for Solar Maasai Training and Install

To keep you all abreast of developments, here is brief overview of the time line for the project.

Original Training:

October 22 & 23, 26 - 30

Gathering Material in Nairobi and receiving the team from America:

November 1-15

Installation of Solar Power at Emprukel:

November 16 - December 4

Commissioning of System at Emprukel:

December 5

Follow up training and completion of training:

December 6 - 12

At the end of all training two of our local technicians will be hired to
maintain the system. The trainee that shows the most enthusiasm and
aptitude will return to California next spring to take a nine month internship
at the Solar Living Institute in Northern California.

Currently it is Monday Morning in Kenya and we are preparing to start the
second week of training with our 20 trainees.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Arrival and Beginning of Training

The team has arrived at Emprukel and training has begun. We have received a warm welcome and are currently educating 20 locals on the benefits of function. We had our first full day of class yesterday and the students was engaged and extremely respectful. We will continue throughout next week. Stay posted for more....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Video from Kenyan News about Wilson's most recent trip

Check out this video about Wilson's most recent trip to Kenya and the release of his book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Safely home and back on the road soon.

Wilson is safely home from Kenya, he reports everything went well.

He will be leaving for Washington DC this week to go to brunch at the white house. We wish him the best for his meeting with the president and his lecture at the National Press Club, which will also occur next week.

The solar panels and other equipment are shipped out and on thier way to Kenya. They will be arriving on Nov, 11th, 2009 and the install will commence promptly after that.

Special thanks to Debra Garrison and Navis Pack and Ship. They did a great job handling our shipping needs and working with us.

Less than a month until Wilson and Barrett go to Kenya to get the install started. The pretraining in the village in Kenya will be starting around October 21st.

There will be signifigantly more action for the next few months, check back for updates!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wilson in Kenya

Our leader, Wilson, is in Kenya this week spreading the news of Solar Maasai and speaking to various rotary clubs and media representatives. We wish him well on his travels and planting the seeds for a successful initial training next month. He will be returning briefly on the 20th before heading to Washington D.C. for his brunch with the Obama family to celebrate the release of his book, 14 Cows for America.

All of us on the AANF/Solar Maasai team wish him good luck and safe travels!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Solar Lanterns!

We have secured solar lanterns for the outlying homes surrounding the school. This great success come thanks to One Million Lights. Check out thier good work and see how much difference light can make.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Our New Partner

I would like to announce and thank Exide technologies for joining our team. They are coming to our aide supplying high quality batteries to store the electricity generated by the solar(PV) panels.

Welcome to the team, we appreciate your support!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Technical Design is finalized

The technical design has been finalized for the project. For all those technically inclined folks, here it the electrical diagram which was created by our team engineer, Kevin Myers. Thanks to Kevin for the great work! Please contact Kevin with any technical questions at his email:

Solar Maasai Show is a great success!


I'd like to thank everyone who came out to the Solar Maasai show, we had a great time and raised over two thousand dollars! Thanks to everyone who attended with a second thanks to those who donated.

I would also like to acknowledge the musicians who made everything possible.

Sila was very inspiring with his soulful renditions of Kenyan songs. Please check out his new album "Black President" and his website

Dublin rocked the party as we expect from this bay area veteran. Stay tuned for his new album "Ease the Pain" which is coming out next month. Stay in touch through either or

A special thanks to Beta Lounge for providing the space for all of us. Elon and Gabe you are amazing hosts.

Guenet and Sophia, you also brought it all together and we couldn't have done it without you.

We look forward to another event when we return celebrating the completion of the installation.

Thanks everyone and I will be posting video of the performances very soon!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solar Maasai Benefit Show

Sunday July 26th
Beta Lounge, Berkeley, CA

The definitive place to be
Featuring: Sila of Sila and the Afrofunk Experience
and the one and only: Dublin of Jazz Mafia

This show is Free. A great time will be had. If you miss it you might have a massive guilt complex for the rest of your life. Save yourself the agony and have a good time for the sake of some nice people in Kenya. Even if you don't like parties you can still come out and enjoy donating some money. It's for a great cause.