Lungi Tyali

SolarTurtle Grand Opening

Lungi’s story

My name is Lungelwa Tyali. I was born in the Transkei (now known as the Eastern Cape) in a small town called Elliotdale/ eXhorha, my village name is upper Mncwasa, Mbola location. It has roughly about 800 households. However, overnight population increased dramatically, this is thanks to our high school Ngangolwandle producing very good results for our matriculants, our school boasts a figure of 3421 pupils to date, with 1900 matriculants.(900 alone studying Maths and Science)

Why am I telling you all this?

With an overnight 100% increase in population numbers (for about 9 months a year), the community’s social dynamics have also changed. Suddenly form a mundane day to day world as rural areas go, we found ourselves a student village. This student village is unfortunately without government services such as basic electricity, no decent roads; water and sanitation.

Sensing the urgent gap and frustration especially on the issue of electricity, I then met up with James van der Walt (Concept owner and designer of the SolarTurtle) and Mr David Mfebe from Cofimvaba. James who is my mentor had come up with a brilliant and smart idea of a solar battery charging station in a shipping container. He strongly encourages me to take a course with the university of Stellenbosch where he, himself did his masters in renewable energy. I am encouraged indeed.

Inside the container is a shop that sells clean electricity to learners to promote education through ICT. Learners can purchase electricity from the shop by in numerous ways. They can bring their phones for recharging or purchase a bottles of electricity to power their lights and charge their phones at home.This bottled power is cleverly designed with a battery inside a plastic milk bottle that has a life of 20 hours in usage, meaning it can last up to five days and much less if you use its to full advantage (charging phones, lights on always, playing your USB music etc). The bottle is costed at R150.00 as opposed to its original cost price of R450.00 this is all thanks to the Department of Energy, Science and Technology and its affiliates such as TIA, SANEDI for subsidising the price ensuring affordability to the end user who is a pensioner, scholar.

On the 15 June 2015, I, Lungelwa Tyali became the first turtlepreneur. A turtlepreneur is someone who works and owns this solar kiosk business. The overall concept is called the SolarTurtle; it’s true aim is to empower women in disadvantaged places in the off-grid areas. So far we have one solar electricity spaza shop in Mbola inside the Ngangolwandle High school. The learners, who live without the basic electric services, can now come in and leave their phones to charge whilst they are in school and pick them up after classes. Teachers can have their laptops and tablets also charged at this facility. We started of as a charging only station but today, we sell airtime, have a full functioning internet cafe where you can make copies, print, write CVs or any other document, take and print ID photos, sell iced lollies and cold drinks. All this is possible because of the clean solar electricity we are using. This service is available to the entire village and ones that are close enough. The business has from the onset been able to sustain itself, paying salaries of 3 employees. In addition we have trained 5 youth with no prior skills to install solar equipment in individual households that have become desperate and will no longer wait for government to provide them with this service. We have been working very hard and this youth is very happy and determined to continue with us, even finding me business around Elliotdale. We install household solar systems for R7500; it comes with 5-6 rooms lights, phone charging station and a solar compatible 15″ LED TV set. This project indeed has created not only hope but unity on the need of energy in our rural Areas.

As the business owner for this first energy pilot project, have benefited personally as I have not only gained a electronic or electricity skill, but have now a better understanding on the social benefits of how renewable energy works, how it benefits us socially and is cost effective.We have been able to empower small businesses and supplied our school with renewable energy electricity when the ESKOM lines were down.

We are also in the process of expanding and including other alternate energy such as gas, petrol, water purification, etc. to our portfolio.

Late last year, October 2015, the solarturtle enterprise was tasked to build and launch a safe and secure solar system that could empower a junior school that is in the middle of the Palm Ridge Informal Settlement, Kathlehong, a community with no electricity. Currently the school, pre fab class rooms, using a diesel generator emitting unclean fumes for electricity purposes and costs the school R3500 per month. It is also very loud making learning and listening a bit challenging. The area is riddle with high crime rate and solar panels are easily stolen. Our container based solar solution has ensured a safer and more secure way of providing the school with electricity. This project is 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. Hence a solar kiosk business can be added later and an entrepreneur trained, creating more jobs for the community as technicians will be trained and shop assistants.

Our vision for the future is a SA where every school produces it’s own power plus that of the learner homes. This distributed model is ideal to reach those hard to reach places that Eskom cannot serve, and creates much needed jobs and spurs on the green economy. However, 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. The future is green. We are making it happen