On the 15 June 2015, I, Lungelwa Tyali became the first Turtlepreneur – an owner of a solar kiosk business called the SolarTurtle.
SolarTurtle’s aim was and is to empower women in disadvantaged off-grid areas. We set up a solar electricity spaza shop in Mbola inside the Ngangolwandle High school. The learners, who lived without the basic electricity could come in and leave their phones to charge whilst they attended school and collect them once classes were done. Teachers were also able to charge their laptops and tablets at this facility. This solar kiosk spaza shop then expanded its services and sold airtime, offered a fully-functioning internet café, inclusive of print and copy services, as well as supplied consumable goods such as iced lollies and cold drinks. This was all possible due to the clean solar energy being used. The business has from the onset been able to sustain itself, paying salaries of 3 employees. In addition 5 youths were trained in the installation of solar equipment and they were able to service a number of the households in the community that had no access to electricity, including household solar systems for R7500, which comprised of 5-6 rooms lights, a phone charging station and a solar compatible 15″ LED TV set. This project created not only hope but unity in our rural areas in respect of their electrification needs.
As the business owner for the first solar energy pilot project, I have benefited personally as I have not only gained an electrification based skill, but have now a better understanding on the social benefits of renewable energy. We have been able to empower small businesses and supplied our school with renewable energy when the ESKOM lines were down.
We are in the process of expanding and including other alternate energy solutions such as gas, petrol, water purification, etc to our portfolio.
In October 2015, the SolarTurtle enterprise was tasked to build and launch a safe and secure solar system that could empower a junior school in the Palm Ridge Informal Settlement, Kathlehong (a community with no electricity). The school comprising of prefab class rooms made use of a diesel generator, which emitted fumes and a fair amount of noise pollution, at a cost of R3500 per month. The area was riddled with crime and solar panels could easily be stolen. Our container based solar solution ensured a safer and more secure way of providing the school with electricity. This project was called the PowerTurtle and has been in operation since March 2016 without any glitches or security issues thus far. It continues to provide electricity to the school and also has enough energy to power the surrounding community. A solar kiosk business can be added at a later stage and an entrepreneur, technicians and shop assistants could be appointed and trained, creating more jobs for the community.
Our vision for the future is a South Africa in which where every school produces its own power plus that of the learners’ homes. This distributed model is ideal to service those hard to reach places that Eskom cannot serve, creates much needed employment opportunities and spurs on the green economy.
Notwithstanding the above, these small solar power solutions cannot happen without support. We need government subsidies and financing to support schools in need. With your help we can make a sustainable impact to the lives of millions. Our future is green and we strive to make this a reality.