Solar Powered WiFi for Micronesia
Guest Post by Bruce Baikie
Two long-distance, solar-powered wireless point to point connections were set up in the Micronesian Region of the Pacific in early August 2012 as part of the Pacific Island Schools Connectivity, Education, and Solar (PISCES) Project, that connects two islands together, over 19 km (12 miles) of open ocean.
The first half of the PISCES project was a hands-on training workshop on Solar-powered long-distance WiFi technology at the University of Guam. The workshop focused on WiFi science, standards, solar power, site surveys, project safety, and automated link planning tools. On the final day, the students set up a solar powered point to point link on campus to connect the Center for Island Sustainability to solar-powered Internet with a higher bandwidth connection and replace an older, slower Internet link.
For the second half of the PISCES project, the team traveled to Chuuk (called Truk until January 1990), one of the Federated States of Micronesia, and installed both a solar-powered long distance WiFi Internet connection and a Solar-Computer-Lab-in-a-Box at a primary school.
The Internet connection for the Udot School originated from Chuuk’s main Island, Weno (formerly Moen). Ubiquiti 5 GHz WiFi hardware provided connectivity across the Chuuk Lagoon to Udot Island, about 19 km (12 miles) over open ocean.
The single-level school on Udot required a 40-foot pole mast on which to mount the Ubiquiti radio and antenna. With team members on each island, the antennas were lined up and connected to each other (video).
The network was then routed through a local DSL Internet connection to provide Internet connectivity to the school, and for the local community. Each WiFi unit is powered with a solar pv system. It consists of a 30 watt solar panel from SolarLand USA, a solar charge controller with Power over Ethernet, and 38 amp hours of battery back up.
The unique Solar-Computer-Lab-in-a-Box was developed by students at Illinois Institute of Technology. This turnkey computer lab is designed to be as close to plug-and-play as possible for off-grid environments. It includes six Intel Classmate laptops, solar panels and mounting gear, a charge controller, wiring, and laptop security equipment, all contained within a uniquely-designed and ready-to-ship box that transforms into a computer table.
The PISCES Project received funding support from Google, the Pacific Telecommunications Council, and the Internet Society. Additional partners included the University of Guam, Illinois Institute of Technology, Green WiFi, Inveneo, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, and the University of California, Berkeley’s TIER research group.