In mid-May, a team of eight Ugandan engineers and one sociologist from the Ministry of Water & the Environment made the long journey to SEI headquarters in Paonia, CO to learn about solar water pumping design. The Ugandan Ministry of Water installs large community-sized water pumping systems, and the group came to SEI as a part of their work on the Energy for Rural Transformation (ERT) project which aims to increase rural access to electricity. After waiting nearly three years to take the class, the engineers came prepared with design sets, lots of questions, and an intense motivation to increase their technical capacity in solar applications.

SEI teamed up with Remote Energy to design and teach the course. Remote Energy was founded by four SEI instructors- Carol Weis, Brad Burkhartzmeyer, Chris Brooks, and Jason Lerner- with the core goal of providing customized solar electric technical and training expertise to technicians, organizations, businesses or agencies that implement international development projects. The class began with 2.5 days of solar fundamentals, followed by the direct application of these fundamentals to the Uganda community water pumping design sets. Exercises were customized to address the goals of the participants- together they reviewed pump curves, solar resource data, pump inverter specifications, temperature coefficient calculations, and wiring PV strings in series and parallel to match equipment. Water Mission, a non-profit engineering group, graciously provided access to its solar design tool for PV with AC water pumps and variable speed drive inverters.

Remote Energy provided case studies from two past water pumping projects- a DC water pumping system for a community in Bolivia, and an AC water pumping system installed with Water Mission in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Design methodology from these case studies was used to evaluate the Uganda design sets. Here’s a snapshot from the Puerto Rico design:


In addition to spending valuable time in the classroom, everyone had some fun! The group toured local sites to see different solar water pumping applications, visited the magnificent Black Canyon, enjoyed a BBQ and bonfire along with fellow SEI students and staff, and played some competitive games of soccer. It was a busy week in Paonia, with an additional 50 students from over 10 countries participating in SEI’s Micro Hydro and Advanced PV Multimode classes. Says SEI Executive Director Kathy Swartz, “In the tradition of SEI, we had all three classes on campus for a catered BBQ. It may have been one of the best get-togethers we’ve ever had- a bonfire, cornhole, frisbee, plentiful food and drink, music, dancing, kiddos running around, and so much laugher. Everyone was so happy and mingling together under a beautiful Paonia sunset and then starry night.”