Where is Totota?
With a population of approximately 6,400, Totota is a rural community located approximately 80 miles northeast of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. The town is a regional trading center, but most households rely on dry cell batteries, lanterns and candles while a small number purchase electric service from individuals who own and operate small generators. It will be many years before Totota may be connected to the nascent national grid system.
Why we are in Totota
In an effort to support economic growth in Totota, with financial donations and support from America’s electric cooperatives, NRECA International committed to establish a power utility that will provide reliable and affordable electric service to households, businesses and community services. When complete, the system will serve 400 homes and businesses. It will be the first time this town has access to reliable and affordable electricity.
Totota Electric Cooperative
This newly formed cooperative will own and operate the utility when it is fully operational. Currently the co-op has 181 registered members, and the number is expected to increase once line construction and the installation of the solar panels are complete. The co-op recently had its first general assembly and elected the co-op’s first chairman of the board. Public awareness and education on the co-op business model is underway in the community.
The power solution
NRECA International enlisted Bandera Electric Cooperative to provide the energy solution. It is a combination of solar, energy storage and high efficiency reciprocating engines/generators. This system is designed to be housed within a standard 20’ shipping container, making it easy to install and secure in this remote area.
A 70-kilowatt solar power system that feeds a rack of lithium-ion storage batteries that can hold up to 90 kilowatt hours of electricity. The system will use 208 solar panels made by San Antonio-based manufacturer Mission Solar Energy, two Ideal Power inverters, 14 LG Chem storage batteries, one Johnson Control rack and includes a backup diesel generator.
The solar array/battery system is being installed by the NRECA team and will be commissioned by Miguel Rivera from Bandera EC. This system will rely on solar power for approximately 95% of all energy consumed, using a diesel generator during months of heavy rainfall.
In addition to a hired line crew, two volunteers from Boone Electric Cooperative from Missouri have traveled to Liberia to assist with the construction. By the numbers as of February 11, 2018:
Power will be distributed over a low voltage network that is designed to be grid ready. Insulated multiplex will be mounted on nine meter poles; AMI prepayment meters will meter power sales to all consumers.
Half of the poles have been set; the remaining poles will be set by the end of February, and the line crew will complete construction by March 3.
To ensure co-op members can safely receive and use electricity in their homes, NRECA International will be installing internal wiring for their homes. Each house will receive a low-cost wiring harness designed to meet the needs of all consumers. This design allows for flexibility to expand in the future, and costs less than US$30 for each home installation.