In November, representatives and volunteers from Itron had the great opportunity to travel to Nepal to help with the Mohari Project, a project chartered to create a microgrid using six 1kW turbines to provide power to the remote village of Moharigaun. Working alongside members of the community, RIDS-Nepal (Rural Integrated Development Services) and some friends, volunteers were able to use natural resources in the valley in conjunction with a Pico-hydro solution — which generally uses turbines smaller than 10kW, rotated by a running water source, to provide electrical energy in remote locations — to provide a microgrid of electricity to approximately 250 people in the village of Moharigaun. This project is helping to create a new economical way of life, a sustainable source for improved education, better health care and personal hygiene for all residents in the village.

The Mohari Project grew up as an Itron Idea Labs search project to discover a turnkey solution that could be easily replicated in other villages around the globe. Itron Idea Labs has played an enabling role, coordinating with Itron’s Corporate Social Responsibility team and aligning with our mission and vision to create a more resourceful world. Providing education, expertise and donating equipment, such as meters, wiring and other hardware, Itron Idea Labs and partner companies collaborated to pull all the necessary pieces of the Mohari Project together, including grants, hardware and additional funds.

The villagers of Moharigaun worked to make this a co-labor project instead of solely a donation as a testament of their appreciation for the gift from Itron. Each household spent roughly 100 days working on the project, digging trenches for the wiring that would form the network/backbone of the self-contained grid to provide power from the Pico-hydro solution. They also helped build the community center that houses the electronics for the system and provides a gathering place for this community to strengthen education and economic opportunities for the future. Operators were trained from Moharigaun and nearby villages to ensure self-sustaining maintenance and use of the system and the community center.

The people in the village are incredibly grateful and pulled together as a community to ensure the success of the project. With a profound sense of community, decisions are handled by large village meetings. Tasks, such as the need to fell a large tree that was leaning over the community center, had the entire village turning up to help and oversee.

Over Thanksgiving, the hard work culminated in a celebration when everything was wired and power was turned on for the village. You could feel the ecstatic buzz coming from all the houses and hear the children shouting that the lights were on. One family even offered the Itron team a chicken to eat as a gift of appreciation. Currently, the 42 powered homes are using 300W in lighting, with an expected increase now that power from the Pico-hydro solution is available.

One aspect of having power in the village is the potential for increased literacy. Nepal generally reports a literacy rate of 50 percent for men and 25 percent for women. With the Pico-hydro solution, members of the community will have light to work and study in the evenings at home or in the new community center. The community center, sponsored by Itron in partnership with RIDS-Nepal, houses an education hall, shower services for personal hygiene, a kitchen and dining hall for community events, and comfortable and clean housing for foreign researchers and tourists. With these resources, young men and women have opportunities for education that were not possible before.

I’ve been with Itron Idea Labs for a little over two years now, and it was encouraging to be on a project where I could put into practice all that I’ve learned working here and see firsthand the lasting impact our technology has. The trip was an eye-opener for me. I experience how people around the world live, and I learned how much there is to learn from coming together. In short, Nepal is a remarkable country filled with remarkable people. Thanks to the work of RIDS-Nepal, Itron and other partners, the future is bright – literally.

Micah Moyer
Associate Design Engineer, Itron Idea Labs
Micah Moyer began his Itron Idea Labs experience as an intern in 2016, and has been a full-time member of the team since March 2018. With an electrical engineering degree from Eastern Washington University, Micah enjoys taking on projects that tie together technologies from inside and outside of Itron.