Great Lakes Energy: Mahama Refugee Camp mini-grids

Mahama refugee camp project

Recently Alp Tilev, Managing Director of Great Lakes Energy in Rwanda, got in touch with me about their Mahama refugee camp project – to build two mini grids and area lighting within the camp.

The camp is is located in the Eastern Province of Rwanda ensuring a safe haven for over 50,000 Burundian refugees. This is the sixth refugee camp, the newest and largest in Rwanda. Despite the country’s small size and densely populated territory the camps total 164,561 refugees, who are primarily from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Mahama camp can be a dangerous place at night, but installing area lighting in much needed places has provided children and adults a safer place to be during the hours of darkness. Not only 

that but the children can also play sports such as football and basketball in these well lit areas.


The Great Lakes Energy team worked alongside refugee interns during the installation, training them on the fundamentals of renewable energy systems.

The Great Lakes Energy team

These refugee technicians have now become part of the GLE team. The excitement and enthusiasm from these new team members is quite incredible, working tirelessly through the holiday season to finish the project for the new year.

Making solar panels

Completed mini-grid and lit areas

The solar array and power electronics building with lit and safe play areas.

Solar energy
Mahama refugee camp

Equipment used

For each of the two mini-grids:

  • 3 x SmartSolar MPPT 250/85-MC4
  • 1 x Victron BMV-700 series
  • 1 x Color Control GX
  • 1 x MultiPlus 48/3000/35
  • 24 x Sunlight 2v OPzS 2225AH battery cells
  • 45 x 255W PV module (11,475Wp)
Mahama refugee camp solar energy


Thanks to the GLE team dedication the camp inhabitants had a place to celebrate and welcome in the new year. Kudos then to the GLE team: Honore Basazababo, Alp Tilev, Sam Dargan, Jean Aime Niyonsenga, Furaha, Boaz, Ulbain, Gerrard.

Going by Great Lakes Energy’s mission statement, the team’s dedication and their passion for refugee involvement says it all:

“The future is not some place that we head towards and that we have no control over. It’s a place where all our accumulated actions come together in creating something that will be our children’s reality one day. It’s important to remember that we create the future. This is the mission that drives Great Lakes Energy (GLE) in building such projects.”

This is the project that inspired the refugee mini-grid:

John Rushworth