When Ifeanyi Orajaka was an undergraduate engineering pupil in 2008, he had his profession all mapped out. After he graduated from the Federal University of Technology in Owerri, Nigeria, his plan was to get a high-paying job at one of many multinational oil and fuel corporations primarily based within the nation. To enhance his probabilities, he labored as an intern for 2 of them.
However throughout a kind of internships, he visited among the oil firm’s amenities in a rural space and was shocked to see that folks dwelling close by had no entry to electrical energy.
In 2008 solely about half of Nigeria’s 152 million residents had electrical energy, in keeping with a Macrotrends report.
That incident—in addition to Orajaka’s new fascination with renewable power applied sciences, particularly photo voltaic—modified his profession trajectory.
Inexperienced Village Electrical energy Initiatives
Federal College of Know-how in Owerri, Nigeria, and College of Port Harcourt, in Choba, Nigeria
“Given the power-supply inadequacies in Nigeria,” he says, “I used to be keenly thinking about how photo voltaic power may assist Nigeria resolve a few of its power challenges.”
He started researching how photo voltaic power expertise labored. Primarily based on what he realized, he and three classmates constructed a solar-powered 6-kilowatt minigrid that equipped energy to about 60 properties in a village. Minigrids use distributed off-grid power options that function independently from the nationwide transmission grid. Orajaka says his off-grid system of the primary of its form developed and carried out in Nigeria.
His workforce entered its “Mission Unfold the Mild: Present Electrical energy in a Small Settlement” within the 2009 IEEE Presidents’ Change the World Mission Competitors, which was for college students who had developed options to real-world issues. (The competitors is now not held.) On the time, Orajaka was an IEEE pupil member. The minigrid obtained the Excellent Pupil Humanitarian Prize of US $1,000.
“The assist from IEEE gave us validation, and that helped us to consider in ourselves and the concepts we got here up with,” Orajaka says. “They’ve helped make sure that hundreds of thousands of Nigerians now have entry to high quality, dependable electrical energy due to that preliminary assist we received from the IEEE household.”
Profitable the competitors, he says, modified his life.
Increasing microgrids past the underserved
Throughout their last semester in 2010, the scholars determined it was time to implement their concept, they usually turned to IEEE as soon as once more. They put collectively documentation on how the minigrid labored, created a funds, and utilized for a grant from the IEEE Foundation.
“I nonetheless have a really vivid reminiscence of the second I obtained the e-mail from the IEEE Basis notifying us that our request had been permitted,” Orajaka says. “That has been probably the most phenomenal moments of my life. The Basis offered us with $44,521. I nonetheless bear in mind the quantity, all the way down to the final greenback.”
The grant offered the seed cash to launch their startup that 12 months: Green Village Electricity Projects of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The IEEE member is GVE’s chief government.
GVE additionally has obtained assist through the years from IEEE Smart Village, which helps entrepreneurs arrange small utilities. Good Village gives grants for the preliminary funding to purchase gear, in addition to mentoring and coaching.
In the present day GVE is one among Nigeria’s main renewable power corporations. It gives options for residential, industrial, and industrial clients in addition to for unserved and underserved communities. Companies embrace consulting on renewable power tasks, implementing sensible metering and utility administration methods, and putting in solar-based methods at lodges, places of work, and manufacturing crops.
“To a big extent, I wouldn’t be the individual I’m at the moment if not for the assist from the IEEE and IEEE Basis.”
The corporate’s present minigrids have a complete saved capability of about 5.1 megawatts, serving greater than 30,000 households and companies. By the tip of this 12 months, Orajaka expects the overall minigrid capability to extend to about 8.3 MWs and the variety of clients to double.
GVE is on a hiring spree. Orajaka says he anticipates the variety of workers to extend from 68 to 90 this 12 months.
The corporate helps homegrown innovation, he says, and it varieties international strategic partnerships. It’s working with mobility corporations to supply charging stations and battery-swapping stations for e-bikes and different e-vehicles all through the nation, he says.
“We predict [the collaborations] are well timed, on condition that the Nigerian authorities has just lately eliminated the agelong subsidy on petroleum merchandise—which has elevated their value by nearly an element of 4,” he says. “Having these [stations] in place will assist battle local weather change.”
Orajaka and the opposite founders have set their sights increased than simply offering off-grid rural areas with electrical energy. He says the corporate’s long-term strategic imaginative and prescient is to grow to be the biggest, most energy-efficient utility within the nation.
Members of IEEE Good Village and people from the area people assist set up one among Inexperienced Village Electrical energy Initiatives’s solar-powered minigrids. Ifeanyi Orajaka
A acknowledged chief in Africa
Each Orajaka and GVE have obtained accolades.
In 2018 he was within the inaugural cohort of the Obama Foundation’s Leaders Africa program. Established by former U.S. president Barack Obama, the management program is for these from Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Europe who’re working to enhance public, non-public, and civic improvement via grassroots motion.
The London Stock Exchange recognized GVE as one of many fastest-growing non-public corporations in Africa in 2019.
U.S. local weather envoy John Kerry in September visited the Wuse market in Abuja, Nigeria, the place he joined different dignitaries to have a good time that GVE had linked the market to the facility grid with a 1 MW microgrid. The mission obtained assist from Power Africa and USAID.
Changing into an impact-focused enterprise chief
Orajaka joined IEEE as a pupil member at Federal College as a result of, he says, the group’s publications widened his horizons “past what we have been being taught at school.” He says membership helped him get perception into new applied sciences and matters that have been of curiosity to these working within the electrical and electronics engineering area
“By the displays and technical lectures that have been being delivered, I received actually and determined to affix,” he says.
Whereas pursuing a bachelor’s diploma in electrical and electronics engineering, he labored as a Shell intern in 2009. He helped preserve, restore, and check the corporate’s mills, motors, pumps, and different area gear. Later that 12 months, he received an internship at ExxonMobil, the place he labored till 2010 in IT assist, serving to with information community tasks and consumer help.
He earned a grasp’s diploma in electrical energy methods engineering in 2018 from the University of Port Harcourt, in Choba, Nigeria.
To higher discover ways to run an organization, Orajaka has taken programs on enterprise administration and administration from the Harvard Business School Executive Education program. He’s additionally a graduate of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Seed program for entrepreneurs from Africa and South Asia.
Orajaka credit IEEE for a lot of his enterprise success.
“To a big extent, I wouldn’t be the individual I’m at the moment if not for the assist from the IEEE and IEEE Basis,” he says. “Maybe I’d have been an engineer working in both Chevron, Shell, or ExxonMobil at the moment.
“The mentorship from the leaders and all the opposite members of the Basis and the Good Village household—I wish to name them household—has helped form me to be a enterprise chief. And never only a enterprise chief, an impact-focused enterprise chief.
“IEEE helped us to grow to be higher engineers past what we have been taught within the classroom,” he continues. “The IEEE ecosystem opened us as much as assist from extra skilled and superior engineers from completely different elements of the world who may look via our designs and supply knowledgeable steerage which have through the years helped form our engineering design-thinking course of. Good Village, which is a mixture of a number of professionals from completely different industries, helped us to be higher entrepreneurs, to look past simply the engineering side and be taught expertise required to really construct a sustainable enterprise.”
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