Design And Implementation of a Solar Wheelbarrow System for Rural Communities in Nigeria

Solar Wheelbarrow

Abel E. Airoboman, Neville S. Idiagi, Wunuken C. Solomon and Emmanuel Sueshi


One of the reasons for the shortage of power supply in rural areas in Nigeria may be connected to its economic implication (it is not profitable to the appropriate authorities because the willingness to pay (WTP) is low). Communities, therefore, embraced the use of kerosene lamps and all forms of the non-biodegradable source of energy for their domestic use. Since wheelbarrow usage is a lifestyle for the rural communities, particularly for carrying their goods to the market and to the farm alike, therefore, the development of a solar energy-generating wheelbarrow system is proposed to curb energy poverty experienced within said communities.

In this paper, the need for converting wasted energy to useful energy through the pushing of wheelbarrows by traders in Edo Central district, Edo State, is proposed. The traders in these communities are known to cover several kilometres from their homes, pushing their wheelbarrows under extreme weather conditions to the market and then moving from one place to another within the market to sell their goods. By developing a solar-mechanical energy-generating wheelbarrow system for these traders, the wasted energy generated each day can thus be converted to useful energy through the appropriate sizing of the solar PV system on the wheelbarrow which can thus be used to convert solar irradiation to electrical energy.

This paper utilises the HOMMER software to determine the solar irradiance and temperature of the Ewu Market Edo State which was used as a case study. The results from this study showed that total energy of 2,620.80kWh can be generated using the scheme. The implication of this result is that the grid can be relieved by the equivalent of such an amount of energy and sent to other areas with an epileptic power supply.

The benefit of this paper is that the implemented device will be eco-friendly and can serve as a lighting medium especially at night for studying particularly for children thereby avoiding all forms of impaired development that may have emanated as a result of the use of a kerosene lamp. The beauty of this scheme is that it supports the UN Sustainable Development Goal Seven SDG 7 tagged “Clean and Affordable Energy for All by 2050“.


As the world envisages the road map to the energy transition, more productive use of energy is anticipated in the nearest future. It is expected that electricity would be the major source of energy at that time. In achieving this milestone, investment in the electricity sector remains sacrosanct and more importantly, deploying stand-alone grid systems into the market. Since innovation and investments are interwoven to ensure reliable and affordable power supply, the gradual integration and penetration of renewables (solar, wind, and otherwise) into the sector cannot be over-emphasised.

As of late, 85% of the people in the world, the majority of which are women and children living in remote communities, cannot boast of clean and affordable energy (Pauser et al., 2015; Belemsobgo, 2020). According to (Engerati, 2016), 80% of persons living in rural areas in Africa are without electricity while (Mendoza, 2016) affirmed that 645million people in sub-Saharan Africa exist without access to clean and affordable energy. It has also been revealed that 90% of the people in Nigeria lack affordable and clean energy supply (Energy Access Outlook, 2017).

It is worthy to note that if the primary source of energy in Nigeria is adequately utilised to its full potential, then it could outweigh the demand for the product (Ekeh, 2003). However, the Nation continues to endure energy poverty and energy injustice instead of enjoying energy democracy. In a view to solving the problem of energy poverty, Nigerians have sought self-help through the use of diesel generators irrespective of the cost of fueling, maintenance, environmental effects and health implications (Ise-Olorunkanmi, 2014; Hassan and Hamam, 2017; Airoboman, 2016).

The need for decentralising the grid has become imperative following the UN policy on SDGs, especially goal 7, which is to guarantee “clean and affordable energy for all by the year 2050“.

In this paper, the Ewu Market (EM) located in Esan Central Local Government Area (LGA), Edo State, is considered as the case study. One of the main reasons behind the choice of EM, other than its size and business activities, is as a result of its centralisation and strategic location. Based on this advantage, other neighbouring LGAs (Esan West, Esan North and Esan South) can navigate their ways to the market for the purpose of trading. The population of the four districts in Edo Central according to (Brinkhoff, 2017) is put at 137,900 for Esan Central Local Government Area, 159,800 for Esan North East Local Government Area, 217,900 for Esan South East Local Government Area and 167,300 for Esan West Local Government.

According to the 2006 census, Irrua, Ekpoma, and Uromi have a population of 39,042, 77,483 and 48,389 respectively (Magnus and Eseigbe, 2012). However, the rate of electrification in these areas is quite low and appalling and thus requires urgent measures to be taken. In this paper, the following villages: Igor, Emuhi and Ugbiyoko villages of Ekpoma district, Esan West LGA, Idumije, Ewatto-Ogbe and Akagba villages of Ewohimi, Ewatto and Inyenlen districts, Esan South East LGA, Eko Ibadin, Ubierumu Oke and Ebule villages of Uromi and Uzea district respectively Esan North East LGA and Idinobi, Ibori and Eko-Ojemen villages of Irrua and Ewu districts respectively, Esan Central LGA were carefully chosen because these communities lack a clean and affordable source of energy. In addition, since the major occupation of the selected communities is farming and almost every household possesses and pushes a wheelbarrow to the market and farmlands on a daily basis, we chose the above-named communities as beneficiaries of the proposed project.


The Benin Distribution Company DISCO is said to have received the highest number of customer complaints by the DISCOs in Nigeria in the last quarter of 2018 and a very good number of the complaints remain unresolved. Many a time, customers have taken to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the DISCO (Leadership, 2019). If poor power availability, therefore, is a major problem in urban and peri-urban areas within the state, what is now the fate of those people living in remote communities with respect to ensuring clean and affordable energy in accordance with SDG 7? It is envisaged that it may not be productive to send power to these areas because their WTP for energy is low. Going by this assertion, some communities within Edo Central Senatorial have remained in darkness from inception and with no clear cut of hope when their communities would be electrified. It has also become difficult for students to study because of the unavailability of power especially when they are to study at night. In addition, due to the frequent use of kerosene lamps and all source of non-biodegradable fuel for domestic use, the level of impaired development might have also increased. This paper, therefore, proposes the development of a solar wheelbarrow system as a scheme to enhance the penetration of renewables into the communities of interest in accordance with the SDG 7 to at least one hundred (100) households selected from the four districts of Edo Central. 

In line with the Sustainable Energy for all initiative (SEE4ALL) and its three main cardinal targets namely: ensure universal access to modern energy services, double the rate of improvements in energy efficiency, double the share of renewable energy in the global mix and going by what is presently obtainable with respect to the slow penetration rate of renewables and renewables technologies in Nigeria, it is crystal clear that stringent approach, attention and otherwise is required if the SDG 7 goal must be achieved. The need for local fabrication of stand-alone decentralised grid systems in local villages and communities arises as a means to bridge the gap in energy production in Nigeria, thereby relieving the already overloaded grid network of some loads.

The technology as proposed in this submission, is subjected to answering the following research questions: To what extent are the selected villages electrified? Is it in conformity with the appropriate and relevant international standards and SDG 7?  How will the proposed project reduce the rate of energy poverty in these villages? How will the proposed project fare with respect to maintenance and operation? Will there be any health challenges arising from the project? Is the project environmental and eco-friendly? Will there be any other productive uses of the proposed project other than for lighting a bulb? The essence of this project is to model and implement a solar-mechanical energy-generating wheelbarrow system with a view to providing answers to the above research questions.


The need for decentralising the grid has become imperative following the UN policy on SDGs, especially goal 7, which is to guarantee “clean and affordable energy for all by the year 2050“. So far, the penetration rate of recent advancements in renewables and stand-alone grid technologies to this part of the world has been a difficult task and therefore requires more attention. According to (ECN 2015), 71.9 million hectares of land in Nigeria is fertile, making it a good potential for biofuel production over fossil fuel. The Nigerian government from inception recognised these stands and has built research centres across the countries to utilise the renewable potentials endowed in the country for the benefit of the citizens (NECAL, 2015). More such pilot projects are essential for industrialisation through an adequate commercialisation process.

According to (Mohapatra, 2018), the use of kerosene lamps and other unclean fuel sources for domestic use by women and children in rural areas comes with serious health challenges, namely; irritation of the eyes, dry cough, headache, etc.  One of the significant productive uses of the generated energy from the proposed project, therefore, will be geared to light a bulb to enable students to study at night, thereby reducing the health challenge of studying with a kerosene lamp. Studies have shown that the deployment of solar systems with an efficiency of about ten per cent covering one per cent of the country’s surface could generate an energy output equivalent to about ten million barrels of oil per day (Ekeh, 2003). Consequently, some villages in parts of the states are presently not electrified. In cases where they are, the revenue generated from these villages is low when compared with the amount used in producing 1kWh of electricity (Airoboman and Ogujor, 2018), in addition to the poor reliability of the network (Airoboman et al, 2017; Airoboman et al, 2019). According to SDG 7, the last mile connection is very essential and sacrosanct therefore, the villagers in rural communities have a right to clean and affordable energy. The capital cost of installing stand-alone grid systems may be high; however, it has a better advantage when compared to other sources of energy like the use of fuel woods, kerosene lamps, etc. that comes with accrued health challenges.

Therefore, a gap with respect to meeting up with the energy requirements of the villages is established. This study intends to fill the gap through the development of a solar-mechanical energy-generating wheelbarrow for the inhabitants of the selected communities.


Solar panels are becoming more commonplace and investing in a solar photovoltaic system is a smart solar solution for most homeowners/mobile systems. This now proven and reliable technology offers long term performance with low maintenance. The latest solar panels and PV systems are cheaper, easier to install, maintain and operate more efficiently than ever before so it is important to know how to size a solar panel system in order to get the best from it.

The primary goal of any photovoltaic solar system is to offset all or some of your electricity needs with free power from the sun. Ideally, for solar panels, this would be somewhere that experience cold temperatures to keep the panels cool but that also receives plenty of sunlight to generate lots of free power. Sizing a solar system can be tricky, especially if installing a system in a new home or device. In such cases, the sizing of the solar panels or how much solar energy you require becomes essential. One could estimate the annual energy usage if the daily energy consumption pattern is known or have details of your energy bills. Having a reasonably accurate estimation of energy consumption will help in the proper sizing of the solar system needed.

We shall in the next section design a solar photovoltaic system for an off-grid wheelbarrow solar system with battery backup for the purpose of providing, more importantly, lighting load for use in rural communities in Nigeria.


Climate data for the location that is being investigated using the Hommer software is required for solar system design and analysis. This includes the average solar irradiation (in kWh/m2/day) and monthly average temperatures. Solar irradiation data for EM with (Latitude 6°48’7.21″N/Longitude 6°15’3.99″E) location are shown in Table 1. Consequently, the monthly average irradiation of the location was recorded as 4.81kWh/m2/day. It is noticed that the solar irradiance was low in July and August and high from January to March and November to December. This is because of the weather season during those periods. The information in Table 1 has been interpreted graphically as presented in Figure 1.

Table 1: Monthly average global horizontal irradiance (GHI)

MonthClearness indexDaily Radiation (kWh/m2/day)
  Annual Average: 4.8075
Monthly average solar global horizontal irradiance (GHI)
Figure 1: Screenshot showing Monthly Average Solar Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) Data

On the other hand, Table 2 shows the monthly average ambient temperature. The monthly highest of 26.52oC was recorded in the month of March and the lowest was 24.13oC in December. The purpose of the ambient is in its usefulness in determining power output obtained from the solar PV plant and is represented graphically using Figure 2.

For Inverter selection (referring to technical data specification sheets of available inverters): At high temperature, high solar cell temperature occurs. Resultant voltage loss occurs. The system will then find it difficult to attain minimum voltage and cause the inverter to shut down. Secondly, low temperature (coldest days) leads to low solar cell temperature resulting in increased voltage. Consequently, this increased voltage might damage the inverter (the inverter goes offline).   

Table 2: Monthly Average Temperature Data

MonthDaily Temperature (oC)
Monthly average temperature data
Figure 2: Screenshot showing Monthly Average Temperature Data

Generally, you can draw a list of the power consumption of all the electrical appliances and devices that will be used on a particular mini-grid by estimating how long each appliance or device is switched on each day. In this case, however, we are concerned with lighting load and a point for phone charging and otherwise and this will be achieved by multiplying the power consumption (in watts) of each device by the number of hours it is on to give you the daily energy consumption in watt-hour as shown in Table 3

Table 3: Table of Energy Demand

3W bulb3W233×2×3=18Watt Hour
Phone charging10 W2310×2×3=60Watt hours
    78Watt hour

From Table 3, the total energy to be consumed=78watt hour

A. SIZING OF SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC                              

Solar power calculation

The Average sunlight in Ewu Market is 6 hours with a loss factor of 1.3.


Solar power calculation

Since the total power from the panel is 16.25watt, we will go for the next available PV panel higher than the needed power.

If a 40Watt panel was selected of the following electrical specification: Maximum Power, MP =40PW, Maximum Power Voltage MPV= 17.5Vdc, Maximum Power Current IMP =5.7A, Open Circuit Voltage VOC = 21V, Short Circuit Current ISC = 6.2A.

Solar panel number calculation
Solar panel number calculation

Therefore, we need approximately one 40watt panel


A lithium-ion battery is one of the best solar batteries, with an efficiency of 90% and a depth of discharge of 85%.

The battery capacity is shown below:

Solar Battery Capacity

Days of autonomy is the number of days a battery can supply a site load without any support. We chose 2 days of autonomy.

Battery Capacity

The streams of lithium battery that are nearest are 18AH


Since from selected solar panel of 40watt with PM =40wp, vmp = 17.5vdc, Imp =5.7A, Voc = 21v, Isc = 6.2A.


Where IL =load current

Number of strings= number of parallel combination= 1

Isc= short circuit current of panel= 6.2A

The next available charge controller in the market is 20A.

The design schematic of the wheelbarrow is presented in Figure 3. The design approach is presented using the flow chart in Figure 4. The prototype design using the Hommer software with the solar panel and other fittings is presented in Figure 5.

Solar wheelbarrow schematic
Figure 3. Schematic of the Research
Energy analysis flow chart
Solar wheelbarrow design
Figure 5: Wheelbarrow designed with solar PV panel


From Table 3, the total energy demand of 78Wh daily by the solar wheelbarrow has been established. A total load of 13W for use in 3 hours was arrived at. This duration of power supplied can however be improved, subject to the nature and quality of the battery deployed. Further, if one of the bulbs is used while the other unit is on reserve, then the hours of supply can be prolonged.

Table 4 presents the extrapolated energy demand if the wheelbarrow is to be used daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. It was established a total yearly consumption of approximately 26.2kWh would be arrived at per customer. Consequently, Table 5 extrapolated the energy demand subjected to 10, 50 and 100 customers and it was established that if 100 customers were to utilise the proposed solar wheelbarrow then a total energy consumption of 2620.8kWh would be reached. The results obtained have to be interpreted graphically.

This idea can be deployed in remote communities within the case study characterised by the absence of grid connectivity or other constraints leading to an epileptic supply of energy. In areas with a fair power supply within the community, however, the idea behind this work can also be used as a means to relieve the grid of some loads and maintain system stability.

Table 4: Extrapolating Energy Demand using Appliances

APPLIANCESRATINGQTYHOUR/DAYDaily Energy (Wh)Weekly Energy (Wh)Monthly Energy (Wh)Yearly  Energy (Wh)
Phone charging10 W2360420168020160
Total13W4678546218426, 208

Extrapolating Energy Demand using Number of Customers

NO. OF CUSTOMERSDaily Energy (kWh)Weekly Energy (kWh)Monthly Energy (kWh)Yearly  Energy (kWh)
Figure 6: Yearly Energy Demand

The results from this work, therefore, are in line with the SDG 7 guidelines because the energy generated is expected to be clean and free from carbon. The paper, if accepted, is expected to provide lighting loads for students within the rural communities to study at night thereby preventing impaired development as a result of studying with kerosene lamps and other forms of non-biodegradable fuel. This paper has introduced another platform for the integration and penetration of renewables into the country. It can also be utilised in other productive use like in small scale businesses, e.g., in barbers shops, charging of phones, etc. thereby creating employment opportunities for youth in the communities. On a large scale basis, some youths in the selected villages can be trained on how to maintain the wheelbarrow, hence creating productive use of the energy. The overall results from this paper could also serve as a working document and a means for enacting future policy on renewable energy penetration in Nigeria and beyond.

To the best knowledge of the research team, this project is proposed for the first time. It is also different from other research because it is aimed at solving problems using the lifestyle of the villagers/communities through the conversion of wasted energy (solar) to useful energy (electricity). Other than lighting a bulb for security, studying, and otherwise, the prospect of the productive use of the electricity generated by small scale business owners is also envisaged, and examples of such small scale businesses are those involved in charging phones, barber’s shops, etc.


In this study, the design of a wheelbarrow with panel fitting is presented. The concept of this design is to guarantee sustainable energy for all in line with the UN SDG 7. This research will not only be of usefulness to the case study as presented but to other rural communities across Africa, Asia, South America and others who may share the same lifestyle as our case study. The findings, if accepted, can go a long way to reduce impaired development in women and children who use kerosene lamps as light sources. This research will once more provide other productive use during the day for charging phones and radio while the lighting point with a bulb connected to it can be used by students in rural communities, particularly to study at night.


The authors of this paper hereby acknowledge the Rural Electrification Agency REA in Nigeria for supporting and providing a research grant via ref REA/01/MDCE/EE02 for this study. The authors use this medium to strongly appreciate the REA in Nigeria for this opportunity.


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