Solar Boma Systems should be a thing

For the Maasai, the traditional living unit is the boma. This is an extended, or multi-family compound surrounded by a thorn hedge (usually), which will contain between 3 and 10 houses. There is an inner circular compound, also surrounded by a thorn hedge, to keep the livestock safe during the night. Satellite photos of the Maasai plains of Tanzania are sprinkled with these distinctive circular structures.

Yesterday, in a conversation with our partners OMASI about rural grid electrification, they mentioned with sadness that – however much benefit this would bring to the community of towns or large villages like Terrat, where we are based – the majority of the population who live in the bomas miles away from the main villages would never be able to realise the benefits of the grid, since it would be infeasible to connect them all up.

This got us thinking. On the one hand, we’re familiar with solar home systems as a good way to electrify a single household. And on the other hand, a minigrid is a good way to electrify an off-grid community. Why not develop something halfway between the two for these Maasai boma “micro communities” – combining the low cost and simplicity of solar-home-systems, with the greater power, flexibility and productive use possibilities of a microgrid?

And the solar boma system was born. During the project, as an additional side-initiative, we’ll design and test a couple of different size systems, for bomas of 3 up to 10 households in size. We’ll let you know how it goes, and – of course – whether we get to use a ring-main! (sorry)

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