Dar Bouidar Solar – 1 – how it started

About 20 minutes drive south of Marrakech is the Dar Bouidar Children’s Village where more than 100 children are growing up. A generous and kind Swiss gentleman had long had the idea, and in 2015 he founded Dar Bouidar to provide a decent home and upbringing for kids that were not fortunate to have a happy home. The guy is Hansjörg Huber, we’ll return to him.

Dar Bouidar Children’s Village, the Atlas mountains in the background

Dar Bouidar can already house more than 120 kids and all their needs are provided for. For instance, there is a kindergarten and a school for all ages. There is a mosque and even a small amphitheater for staging music and theatrical performances. Some of the food is grown on site and the quality of the cooking and catering is really impressive. However, Dar Bouidar is neither connected to the electricity grid nor to the mains water supply. Electricity is supplied by a diesel generator. And that electricity from the generator is used to power all the regular things such as refrigerators, lights and a couple washing machines. Lots of kids means lots of clothes to wash. However, as there also is no mains water connection, electricity is essential to power pumps that bring up water from 3 on site wells.

The diesel generator, mosque in the distance on the right

But here is the issue: Electricity from diesel is expensive. Actually, very expensive. Running the village on diesel costs around €3’000 every single month. Plus the generator needs maintenance, which can be costly, too. Besides, after combustion the diesel turns into a bit of electricity and quite a lot of CO2 – every year around 100 tonnes. That clearly is not good for the future of those kids.

Of course Morocco is a very sunny country, thus it seemed rather obvious to me that diesel should quickly be phased out in favour of free and abundant solar power. So two months after I had heard about that diesel generator, I travelled to Marrakech and started working on designing a system to power the children’s village by solar.
I met with Hansjörg Huber and his team to work out their exact energy needs and get an idea what kind of solar power system would suit them best.

Hansjörg Huber explaining all about Dar Bouidar
Hanjörg telling me about the diesel generator, for instance that they had to move it about 100 meters away from the main village area because of the annoying noise and exhaust fumes
A rough initial surveying of the available space for ground-mounted solar arrays and routes where cables may be run

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