Dec 23

The Internet of Chickens -Teaser

Back at the end of August another fox got in and killed two chickens before I scared it off. Grrrrrr!!

“That’s it”, I thought, “I wont let this happen again, I’ll build an automatic door for the chicken coop and that will (hopefully) solve the problem”.

I looked around to see if there were examples of automatic doors and, not surprisingly, I found quite a diverse range of ideas, DIY and commercial devices. After looking around and deciding on a design style there was nothing left to do except build it. Easy!

Well three months later,      I finally finished it.

Why did it take so long? Well, that will be the subject of another post (probably several really) detailing the construction, the false starts, the changes along the way and the programming (!) of, what is the start of,

The Internet of Chickens

For now, here is a short video showing the door opening in the morning to let out the chickens. And it was very nice to know that the chickens were being locked in at 9:00pm while I was out.


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Oct 01

Google Grant for Timor Leste Work

Hi everyone,

Exciting news! The ATA (Alternative Technology Association) is a finalist in Google Impact Challenge and hopes to be able to use the grant to continue the good work in Timor Leste.


This grant is substantial ($500,000) and the ATA is one of the finalists in the running to receive one of these grants. This money would make a significant impact on thousands of peoples lives in Timor Leste by allowing the ATA and their local Timorese partners to roll out 2000 PV lighting systems and train 75 technicians to support those (and other) PV system through the remote areas in Timor Lest.


You can help by voting for the ATA here

Some more words from Donna Luck the ATA CEO.

“Our plan is to install 2000 solar lighting systems and train 75 village-based installers in the next two years, delivering an overall 60kW of low-emission solar energy.

The Google Impact Challenge rewards not-for-profit organisations using technology to improve lives.

We need you to vote for us to ensure we get the grant.

Thousands of people in East Timor have no electricity and are unlikely to ever have access to it. We think that’s wrong and are doing something about it.

VLS training 1 copy

Since 2003, we have installed solar lighting in more than 1000 homes, community centres, hospitals and orphanages in remote Timorese villages. We have also helped train local technicians to install and maintain solar systems.

Vote here to bring solar lighting to more people in East Timor.

Voting closes on October 13, so vote for us and help spread the word!”





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Sep 27

Appropriate Technology Talk

Back in July, at the, “Working Together with Timor Leste: The Next 10 Years” conference held in Melbourne, I was fortunate to be a co-presenter with my very good friend and colleague, Simão Baretto, the Director of CNEFP, a vocational training facility in Timor Leste. This was done in my capacity as Convenor of the IPG (International Projects Group) for the ATA (Alternative Technology Association).

One of our members recorded the event and created this video that features the ATA’s You-Tube site



One of the interesting things about the talk was that the presentation technology on stage failed giving us a perfect opportunity to talk about the need to have comprehensive training and maintenance capabilities to cope with the inevitable failures and maintenance requirements associated with any technology.

It was a great experience presenting to senior Australian and Timor Leste officials, NGO’s and volunteers and we all came away with much more knowledge and renewed drive to continue to help the people of Timor Leste in their efforts moving towards a more sustainable and stable society.


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Jan 02

A simple 12V Camping Supply

We needed a quick and simple 12V supply for a camping trip, so I whipped up this basic system.

Nothing special, just a lighter socket connector with fuse connected to an existing 38Ah battery. A small 20W amorphous panel can be used short term without a regulator to top up the battery. Note, a regulator should be normally be used but the current is low enough (around 1A) for that battery not to be damaged short term.

With the addition of my little 150W inverter, together with a light and provision for some music we have  small system that’s perfect for a few days away.

The parts for the minimal 12V supply

The parts for the minimal 12V supply. A battery and box, fused lighter socket and alligator clip

The lighter socket screwed to the battery box (there is small piece of wood on the other side for bracing)

The lighter socket screwed to the battery box (with some  wood inside as bracing)

With the inverter plugged into the one socket

Showing the inverter plugged into the one socket. The other socket could be used for another device.

A closer view of the socket

A closer view of the double socket

Inside the box showing the alligator clips connecting the socket to the battery The foam packing stops the battery sliding around

Inside the box showing the alligator clips connecting the socket to the battery. Note the foam packing

The complete setup (but without the panel)

The complete setup showing the inverter and light connected to the battery (but without the panel)

We have light - and a power point for the small music system

We have light – and a power point for the small music system
















The system will supply around 15 hours of light and music before the battery needs recharging. With the addition of the 20W panel the system with provide power for the whole trip in summer.

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Dec 06

Greetings From the Land of the Crocodile

Well here I am back in Timor Leste doing another round of training related to Solar Power.

PV systems are really starting to take off here with the Government and many NGO’s rolling out systems at an increasing rate. The Government, in particular, has recognised the need for power systems like PV Solar to fill in the gaps in the national grid. This is important, as many people (around 20%) will never have reliable access to the national grid due to topology and geographic issues.

suco pv system and satellite dish

With the increase in installed systems there is an increased need for quality installers, effective handover and training to communities after installation, and an ongoing maintenance program, particularly for community based systems.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to play a part in this amazing development through my association with the ATA (Alternative Technology Association), Mercy Corps, local vocational training organisations such as CNEFP (National Centre for Training and Employment) in Tibar just outside Dili together with a number of Government staff responsible for the roll-out of technologies, including PV system in the districts.

Last week we held some training sessions with CNEFP and Government staff and followed up the training with a site visit to put in practice all that we had learned. It was a fabulous trip as the following photo gallery shows


The location is “Leodato” Aldeia (village)
“Leimia Sorin Balun” Suco (sub-sub-district)
“Hatulia” Sub-District
“Ermera” District

Lat, Lon:  -8.855806,125.372275

IF you enter this into Google maps you will see exactly where the village is.

This is the precise location of the meals table in the guest house at the chapel shown in one of the images below 🙂

a viewmarket at GlenoFilling up with Diesel while the storm clouds roll in

Into the storm cloudsbeing turned back because the road is out

makeshift bridgefixing a hole in the road

chapelvillageview from the chapel 3

view from the chapel 2Panorama Village lores


view from the chapelview from the chapel 4

Panorama Church lores

Panorama 3 - lights lores


made to measure bamboo ladderthe project manager and a trainer having a short break


bamboo conduit to guest house and kitchenbamboo conduit closeup lores

assembling control boardattaching the control board

breakfast - cassava peanuts prawn crackers and sweet coffeePanorama kitchen lores

another road hazardshrine at Lete Foho



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