This is how we look into the new year

This blog entry is about a review of the year 2020 and our expectations for the new year 2021. The past year will certainly be remembered by most people mainly because of the serious consequences of the Corona pandemic. We, too, had to get used to the new conditions created by the pandemic and adapt our way of working accordingly. Although many processes were slowed down or even hindered as a result, in retrospect we can still be very satisfied with what we achieved in 2020.

While in 2019, we mainly used our time to prepare for the departure and the construction of a plant in Germany, we were able to start 2020 directly with an important milestone of the current project phase, the departure of our volunteers to Tanzania in January and February 2020. Through this departure, we were able to build a solid foundation for the later course and success of the SoWaDi project.

First of all, we were able to carry out maintenance work on two of our solar water disinfection systems, which were built in Mwanga in 2017 together with our partner Kilimanjaro Childlight Foundation. In addition to the maintenance work, technical improvements of the two plants could be realized there. In the neighboring town of Kidia, Old-Moshi district, we were also able to build four new plants, so that Tanzania now has a total of six of our test plants.

Back from the trip to Tanzania, we are in weekly exchange with the beneficiaries to get data on the water output of the plants. Also, we get to know if there are problems with the plants and can give advice. To check the functioning of the plants, our project partner carries out water tests at regular intervals.

It is very important for our current test phase to obtain reliable data on the plants. To expand the data situation regarding the performance of the plants, students of the TU Darmstadt developed a self-sufficient measuring system in cooperation with our project team from May to August of last year. This measurement system was affectionately named MONA (Monitoring Offgrid Node for Assessment of SoWaDi Performance). A detailed blog entry about this measurement system can be found here. It is definitely worth reading!

In August 2020, our first construction manual was published. In order to achieve a worldwide availability of the plants, the material purchase and construction should be possible with this construction manual alone. The first version of the instructions was already created during a departure journey in 2017. Since then, however, we have been able to gain important experience regarding the construction by building the plant several times (twice during the departure in 2017, in summer 2018 and 2019, and four times during the 2020 outbound trip) and have been able to improve the instructions from 2017 crucially. By the way, the construction manualcan be freely downloaded here and is definitely worth a look!

In the third phase of the project, the current test phase, the main goal is to collect as much data as possible on the use, quality, and durability of the plant, so that in the long term, technical optimizations and efficiency improvements can be made. Only after these improvements, the plant can be distributed beyond Tanzania. With this in mind, the departure in 2020, the development of the MONA measurement system, and the publication of our construction manual were very important steps for the success of the SoWaDi’s project. Thus, as a project group, we are extremely satisfied with the results of these three events.

For the coming year 2021, we naturally want to build on the project success of the past year and accordingly also have certain goals and some expectations.

In order to obtain a broad and diversified database, it would be desirable to set up even more plants at different locations. For this purpose, we want to cooperate with other Engineers without Borders projects to build and test SoWaDi plants in their project regions. Our construction manual will also be very helpful for this purpose.

Another point we want to follow up on are the MONA boards. On the one hand, we want to use them to analyze the performance of the plants in Tanzania in more detail and, on the other hand, to equip any new plants that may be built as part of an Engineers Without Borders cooperation directly with our measuring system.

Last but not least, we also want to build a new, second test plant in Darmstadt in 2021. This will allow constructive changes to be tested directly on one of the plants and subsequently, the results can be compared with the unchanged plant. The aim is to evaluate the changes in terms of performance and thus to be able to work out concrete improvements.