Zambia Students Shine, Thanks to First Solar-Powered High School in Africa

Mark Ruffalo, actor and activist joined officials to celebrate at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Mark Ruffalo, actor and activist, celebrated with key officials at the ribbon cutting ceremony and commissioning.

Sioma High School serves a large area of Western Zambia, Africa. Its more than 600 students walk, sometimes for several days, to get to the campus, where they will live for the entire semester. Sioma High School’s four dormitories, kitchen and dining halls, and seven classrooms, were powered by three dirty and inefficient diesel generators that ran throughout the day, creating an unhealthy learning environment filled with noise and air pollution. It was susceptible to the fluctuating price and unpredictable delivery of diesel, which costs the school approximately $26,000 each year. That is, until Empowered by Light stepped in.

Empowered by Light, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve lives through renewable energy technologies, had an idea to replace Sioma High School’s non-sustainable fuel source with solar power.

“We hoped to show the Zambian government, and the world, that energy poverty can be eradicated by replacing generator-based power systems with clean, renewable energy, and that there is a short payback,” said Marco Krapels, co-founder of Empowered by Light. “The photovoltaic system at Sioma High School is a donation to the people of Zambia and will demonstrate, at a scalable level, that the school can generate power at a cost lower than diesel.”

Officials gathered to celebrate the first solar powered high school in Africa.

Officials, including the Minister of Education for Zambia, gathered to celebrate the first solar powered high school in Africa.


Project Details

Empowered by Light tapped Standard Microgrid, an international renewable energy microgrid development social enterprise specializing in high-profile solar installations and challenging off-grid renewable energy applications, to design and build the PV system at Sioma High School. Empowered by Light received cash and product donations to make the $200,000, 24-kilowatt solar microgrid and battery storage system a reality.

It includes 106 Suntech STP230 modules, as well as three Sunny Island off-grid and four Sunny Boy 5000TL-US transformerless inverters donated by SMA America. The ground-mounted system will produce about 43,800 kWh annually, which will provide 100 percent of the campus’s energy needs.

THe 28lW array will power...

The 24kW off-grid PV array provides enough energy to meet all of Sioma High School’s needs.

Oscar-Nominated Actor Brings Star Power to Commissioning

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers; Shutter Island) joined key Zambian government officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and commissioning of Sioma High School’s microgrid on August 30, making it Africa’s first solar-powered high school. Ruffalo, who has a PV system on his New York home, is a passionate advocate for the environment and active supporter of Empowered by Light.

  1. mirza SELVER
    mirza SELVER says:

    these kind of stories need more international exposure.i am sure these kind of projects will get more financial support if the success of this project is more widely known.very inspirational to me kudos to all involved

  2. James W. Johnston
    James W. Johnston says:

    This is a wonderful accomplishment. It is not just about what has been done (which is laudable), but it sets the stage for what we can be doing.

    Lest someone think that this is merely a “feel good” initiative, it is essential that it be placed in the longer term context — this enables students in a developing nation to interact with and grasp self-reliant technologies (in this case solar pv). Their imagination cannot help but take hold. As a natural course of events, they will lift the standard of living. Some folks may ask, “So what?”

    The world economy is based on the orderly exchange of goods and services. To create goods or deliver a service, you need an education. SMA, Empowered by Light, and Standard Microgrid are enabling education by democratizing long term access to energy.

    One wonders — it has been said that “Oil is Liquid War” — in that context, what is energy derived from sunlight?

    Fantastic. Utterly fantastic.

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