An update from volunteer Miriam at Tonibung, Malaysia

11th February 2019

Volunteer Miriam reflects on the first few months of her placement with Engineers Without Borders UK partner TONIBUNG. TONIBUNG focuses on rural power generation in Malaysia to support remote communities predominantly through micro-hydro electrical systems.

My placement at TONIBUNG is not linked to a specific project, but it seeks to provide overall electrical engineeringsupport instead. In the first few months of my placement, I have learnt that the local staff at the workshop are knowledgeable in manufacturing and installing the micro-hydro turbines, but are not as confident with the electrical installation. Training has been provided in the past to enable staff to install these generators however, the electrical principles has not been the focus of these sessions. Over the next few weeks, I plan to focus on hands-on electrical training, sharing techniques for the various type of connections that are usually needed.

Currently, staff only have access to one multimeter to test their work. Through discussions with partner Green Empowerment, we hope to have a tester available to each member of staff responsible for electrical wiring. This will provide staff with the means and equipment needed to complete and test the electrical installation.

During the first few months of my placement, I have also visited 3 different sites, each for approximately 4-5 days. Two of the visits involved assessing and re-commissioning existing micro-hydro plants. At the third site, I supported with solar PV work, as well as the electrical installation for the micro-hydro. We installed a prototype valve control system to enable the Pico Hydro system to run even during a low flow period.

Since joining the team, I’ve also been working with former Engineers Without Borders UK volunteer Dan Frydman, who has continued working with TONIBUNG. Dan is focusing on an electronic load controller under a Green Empowerment project. We often work together, particularly on the testing of the turbine-generators at the test rig.

In addition to electrical support and training, I have also designed a level switch to make more efficient use of the hydro, which we will install soon. Further tasks that I am going to be involved with are:

  1. a) designing a flow control mechanism to regulate the output of the turbine, which would provide more efficient use of the water rather than dumping the excess of generation to a ballast load
  2. b) upgrading the existing test-rig at TONIBUNG.

We look forward to sharing more about Miriam’s work with TONIBUNG in the coming months!

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