The Mali team reports that the solar panel connector jack is emerging as another failure mode for the system. The problem appears to be that, once they've finished charging the battery, teachers tend to pull the solar panel connector out by the cord, instead of holding the connector.
This has lead to two connectors failing so far. Here you can see Kinkajou technician Emmanuel Coulibaly taking a battery voltage reading, something they do on every site visit, and before and after every classroom visit. In the photo you can see the power socket adapter he put together to make it easier to take readings.
Kinkajou technician Emmanuel Coulibaly taking a battery voltage reading
Here you can see Sitan Komina, the teacher (karamogo) responsible for this unit, showing her battery charge data sheet, where she records the time she connects and disconnects the solar panel every day, and the color of the LED on the charge controller window. DtM field rep Ousmane Samake said that she is the only teacher (out of six sites visited to date) where he's always found the battery charging. In some other sites, it looked like the panel had never left the box.
Sitan Komina, karamogo in Toubana (a village in the Koumantou region), with battery data sheet
The solar panel connector fails when metal pin pulls out of the plastic housing to the point where the solder joint breaks. Here we've pulled apart the clever repair effected by Komina's husband (by no means a professional electrician), using tape and some spare copper wire. Emmanuel later went back to the village to replace the connector entirely, using an identical part that is (we were happy to learn) available in Bamako electronics shops.
Posted by Timothy Prestero at March 28, 2005 11:20 PM
Solar panel connector, showing village repair