Project Trip June 2017

Wind Energy For Tula/ Ethiopia 5th June - 10th June 2017

Travelling volunteers:

Jochen Hahn, Priest from Rüsseina (left) | Helfried Vater, Electrician from Choren (right)


  1. Run up to Project 2017.
  2. Aim of the inspection June 2017.
  3. Small transportation problem.
  4. Mixed up plans.
  5. What we found in Tula.
  6. Repairs performed in Tula.
  7. Management issue.
  8. Consequences for further arising problems.
  9. Plans for the future.
  10. Donations welcome.

1. Run up to project 2017

see project report January 2017

In January 2017 it was necessary for us to assess the damage caused be a strike of lightning in 2016. With the help of an emergency inverter we were able to get the installation up and running again, (see - report January 2017). Then, through a short inspection by our group member Holger Schneidereit, in April 2017, it was established that the emergency inverter was also faulty. We didn't know the reason why. Since it would be extremely awkward for the village to continue everyday life without electricity until the next installation trip in January 2018, we decided to get to the bottom of the matter.

2. Aim of the inspection June 2017

The goal was clear: The faulty emergency inverter should be replaced with a new original and more robust inverter (Victron Energy, MultiPlus 5000/24) and the inverter MultiPlus 5000/24 which was damaged by the bolt of lightning should be repaired and kept as a substitute inverter. As well as this, we intended to install an additional exchangeable lightning protection outlet at the village exit. Moreover, we intended to install a more highly developed wind regulator.

3. Small transportation problem

The new inverter MultiPlus weighs over 30 kg. However, the flight luggage weight restriction allows up to only 23 kg to Africa and we could only take 2 pieces of luggage. What should we do in order to get around the considerable additional costs? We took out the two heavy toroidal mains transformers from the inverter. Both weigh exactly 22,7 kg with suitcase. So, we got through. Each of our suitcases weighed just under 23 kg. So on the evening of 5.06. 2017 we could fly from Dresden to Frankfurt with Lufthansa and with Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Abeba (cooperation flight with Lufthansa). Timewise this is very best and shortest flight variation. 6.00 o'clock local time, we already landed in Addis Abeba.

4. Mixed up plans

Helfried Vater must always laugh if I, Jochen Hahn, forge exact plans according to the motto: In 5 hours, we will be in Hossaina and on the next day, we will be up in Tula at 10.00 o'clock and by the evening all jobs will have been taken care of. After all, we were under a bit of time pressure. We had two days for Tula, not more. If we didn't solve the problems in this time, the entire trip would have been for nothing.

However – typical for Africa - things went differently to plan. We left much later than scheduled from Addis. Our long-standing chauffeur Shiferaw’s jeep first had to go to a somewhat improvised Open-air workshop in order to re-clamp a water cooling pipe. The cooling water flow was blocked. It would be alright, he thought. And it was, with a glue gun and wire clamps. So we didn't arrive in Hossaina in just five hours, but we arrived. After a warm friendly meeting with our dear friends, the engineer and translator Liranso Salomaon and the engaged foreign aid leader Ashenafi of the church Mekane Yesus, we continued on towards Tula on the following day.

"We will be in Tula in an hour." I thought. Helfried's smile already gave the suspicion of nothing good. And things happened as they shouldn't happen. Half way to Tula the gravel track was under construction and therefore the road was ripped open and mountains of gravel with big stones were piled up in the middle of the street. A Steamroller tried in vain, to flatten the stones on the road. Buses were stuck on the hill. This was noticeably nerve-racking. A little while later, after we had passed these hurdles, there was a quite imperceptible "rattle". Then in the small city of Orsito there were clouds of smoke coming from the cooler. Some free flying stone had completely sliced through the cooler propeller. So, we stood there, approximately 8 km away from Tula with a burst cooler. There was Helfried’s smile again and I understood.... At least in this moment God sent us an ambulance jeep that picked us up and with 4x4-drive, via the more adventurous route, bought us safely to Tula.

Our jeep was not yet repaired in the evening, so we were to travel with the church jeep to Hossaina. Once again everything went differently as intended. A messenger informed us that because of the rains, the jeep had got stuck in the mud 6 km away from Tula. So, the only thing for us to do was to take a most peculiar march downhill. The clayey silt turned out to be ideal building clay that stuck tight, becoming ever fatter and heavier on the soles of our feet. At least now, it became clear to us why everybody in the area used this clay to build their houses - and the cottages also stay standing. The return trip then went through mud ways and water holes. We did arrive in Hossaina in the evening.  Thanks to the church Mekane Yesus for their help!

5. What we found in Tula.

Due to the fact that the inverter could not decrease the electricity the wind turbine needed to be stopped to protect it. This had been done. From the three technicians, two were present. They had the diesel generator up and running. At least this worked. However we determined that there was almost no more motor oil in the generator. The generator had apparently frequently been used for the emergency power supply.

The consequence was a detailed instruction for the technicians. We hope that they will check the oil level regularly in the future. Otherwise the low oil level could have led to the complete breakdown of the generator. Good that we were there.

The electro house was in good condition. The solar installation worked. The wind turbine basically too. We could only later determine why the inverter was not working,( see 8).

6. Repairs performed in Tula

We could manage the following jobs. Admittedly we needed, differently from my optimistic plan, two full days for the work.

Assembly and installation of the new inverter.

We had a smooth success with this. The inverter worked straight away. With a configurations program we were able to configure it to our purposes with the laptop. Thank you Mr. Stein from the company "Service Team, Döbeln", that had personally taught us how to use this program.

Attempted repair of the original inverted damaged by lightning.

We had already tried to repair this inverter in January 2017 by exchanging a main electronic component - however without success. Now, we exchanged another component. However the error indicator remained. Therefore, we could not get the old original inverter operational. This should take place in January 2018. Then in the case of a breakdown we would have a substitute appliance on location.

Mounting of a Dehn lightning protection unit.

As planned, we were able to install a unit that we had bought with us.

Exchange of the wind regulator.

This also took place without problems.

7. Cable problem

While we were working in the electro house, the electricity supply was already on in the village again, there was a massive disturbance: The inverter suddenly went onto overload. Somewhere there was a short in the cable. The inverter was tested under relatively high loads and was working smoothly. The problem was in the network, which represented a giant problem for us in this moment, we only had a few hours left before our departure. Everything was O.K. in the electro house and nevertheless no electricity in the village? So, we could not possibly leave Tula. So, an almost desperate search for the problem took place. Section by section of the village network was switched off and tested. This was only possible with a Walkie-Talkie and at longer distances with the mobile phone. In the end the fault was found in the very last section, namely in the cable to the Mekane Yesus church (approximately 800 m). Despite an arduous systematic search, the fault could not be found in the remaining hour. Consequently, the only option left to us was to disconnect this section, so that the remaining part of the village still had an electricity supply. The relevant cable had been laid by the village technicians in 2015, admittedly with a much too thin cable. In January 2018, this cable will have to be replaced with a much stronger cable. That will solve the problem automatically. The short circuit in this cable was presumably also the reason for the damage to the inverter which was installed in January 2017. In this respect it was a good act of divine providence that the problem appeared while we were in Tula. Otherwise, we would have had another defective inverter on our hands.   

Another cable problem became visible to us: The overhead cables often pass rapidly growing eucalyptus trees. These hinder the path of the cables. This was not apparently a concern for our technicians. We impressed on them the importance of: monthly cable control and if necessary, tree cutting.

8. Consequence from problems at hand

It becomes clear that we need an expert on location, who can look after the situation in Tula on a regular basis.  We are on the lookout. Our translator Liranso Salomon wants to take care of this.

9. Perspectives

It is clear: The electricity installed by the technician in the buildings in the village, (112 houses, a school, village administration, two churches and the immunisation point) exceed the present full operating capacity of the installation, (with reference to the set measurements and calculations in the report from 2016). This sets us our goals for January 2018

  • Install another solar unit (approximately 3 KW). 
  • Renew the cable in the problem area towards the Mekane Yesus church.
  • Supply the last remaining part of the village which is not on the grid, with electricity, (approximately 800 m away and approximately 20 cottages).

This should give a temporary conclusion to the installation plans in Tula.  After that Servicing and aftercare should stand in the foreground. For example, help in the careful development of a new infrastructure. In the lower village which lays about 1 Km away and is still not yet supplied with electricity, a separate solar-powered re-charging station could be tested out.

10. Donations welcome

Due to the expenses of cables not yet bought and solar units, approximately a further 7.000 Euro is required. The costs for installation materials and transport are not included in this sum.  We are very grateful for every donation, (please see - donation account, on our home page). All helpers involved who travel to Ethiopia do so from their own pocket (The cost of the flight, food and lodgings are covered by the Project helpers privately). 

Thank you to all donors and helpers that have made this project possible so far!

signed Dr. J. Hahn, August 2017
Chairman of the "Wind energy Ethiopia e.V."

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