Archive for the ‘School work’ Category
Last week during the surprising, but welcome, return of monsoon conditions OSC’s secondary school set out across our island home to experience Sri Lanka as part of the annual Week Without Walls program. Students and teachers spent the week learning in unconventional classrooms that emphasized Sri Lankan culture, history and ecology as well as service and outdoor education. I had the privilege of leading a modest-sized group of MYP5/DP1 travelers on a circuitous tour of the Central Highlands. The learning focus of this “microtrip” was on photo documentation to better understand the ecology and landscape of Sri Lanka’s mountainous interior.
This is the third year that I have led the Highlands WWW experience. Once again we had a group of enthusiastic students who didn’t’ mind getting up early or living in somewhat primitive conditions while we were on the adventure. We spent the first night in tents at Belhihuloya followed by two nights in a basic dormitory on the Horton Plains plateau. Our final night was spent in comfort in Nuwara Eliya where students and teachers were able to clean up, use their phones, eat well and then participate in several frog and bird outings. A wet snap caused by a low-pressure system in the Bay of Bengal gave us rain (and precious little sunlight) on almost every day. We were able to do almost all the walks but were not able to hike to Kirigalpotta because of wet and windy conditions. I used the extra time to go deeper into the ecology of HPNP and teach photographic skills to the group. All the students brought functioning cameras and they were able to experiment with composition, lighting and photographing lizards, birds and moving water. Joshua, an MYP5 student, got several impressive night shots during a rare clearing of the night skies above Mahaeliya bungalow in HPNP.
From a biodiversity spotting point of view we did well. This year we saw and photographed both the Rhino Horned Lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii) and Pygmy (Cophotis ceylanica) in HPNP. While in Nuwara Eliya we did the wonderful frog walk with Ishanda Senevirathna. Aside from some of the usual endemic species we spotted the Nest Frog (Pseudophillauts femoralis) that we had not seen last year. Bird-wise the whole group got to see the rare winter visiting Pied Thrush (Geokichla wardii) in Nuwara Eliya’s Vitoria Park. At HPNP we saw the Dull Blue Flycatcher (Eumyias sordida), SL Whiteeye (Zosterops ceylonensis), SL Wood Pigeon (Columba torringtoniae), plenty of Yellow Eared Bulbuls (Pycnonotus penicillatus) and several other species. On a damp, misty hike up Totupola Kanda (Sri Lanka’s 3rd highest peak at 2,360 m), we came across at least three different piles of leopard scat and observed scratch marks on tree bark!
One of the new developments this year was to use a drone to better view some of the areas that we were visiting. There were rules against using it in HPNP but we were able to do an excellent series of flights over forest near Lanka Ella falls. The Phantom 3 recorded some amazing scenes of the forest canopy with a new flush of leaves. DP1 student Anaath Jacob did the piloting while I directed the forest sequences. I am now learning how to pilot the drone and look forward to better understanding forest landscapes using this important new tool.
PAST WWW TRIPS
FURTHER READING & REFERENCES
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot. May 2007. Web.
De Silva, Anslem. The Diversity of Horton Plains National Park. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2007. Print.
Pethiyagoda, Rohan. Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud Forest National Park. Colombo: WHT, 2013. Print.
Werner, Wolfgang. Sri Lanka’s Magnificent Cloud Forests. Colombo: Wildlife Heritage Trust, 2001. Print.
This year’s annual DP1 science field trips went out slightly earlier than in past years-luckily with no drastic weather consequences. The DP Physics students investigated hydroelectricity near Norton Bridge and the DP Biology class did field ecology exercises on Castlereigh Lake. Meanwhile, I took the Environmental Systems & Societies (ES&S) group up to Peak Wilderness for a study of biodiversity and human impact. It was a relatively small group (eight students), supported by Rebecca Morse our new language acquisition teacher. Together we enjoyed three days of learning, basic accommodation and the traditional hike up to the summit of Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak).
Once again we focused on four broad themes related to the Environmental Systems & Societies syllabus.
- Theme 1: Land Use Variation (anthropocentric vs. natural ecosystems, plantation agriculture etc.)
- Theme 2: Forest & Vegetation Types (lowland, montane tropical forests, cloud forests)
- Theme 3: Vertical Zonation
- Theme 4: Biodiversity in a ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’
This year’s group proved to be particularly good at finding frogs and I also encountered several notable bird species that are highlighted in the pictures in this post. The Peak Wilderness area, now designated as a World Heritage Site, is rich in amphibian diversity with new species being described in recent years (see links below). The design of our day hike to the peak is such that it allows the group to stop, look and record examples of biodiversity. The Peak Wilderness area is, of course, very different than what the Colombo area hosts and much of what we see in plants, amphibians, fungi etc. needed to be properly identified with the aid of guide books. The other themes were reinforced both on the hike and the days getting to the Fishing Hut and back. The trip is not designed to be data-driven and the focus of the three short days is on observations and experiencing the guiding themes. Walking up to the peak is a rather physically demanding aspect that distinguishes the ES&S trip from the other science field studies. Most of the class was hobbling around campus on the two remaining school days of the week when we returned. This was my 18th trip, if my calculations are correct, and along with the rest of the group I returned with a sense of accomplishment, awe in the beauty of nature and concern for the way that our species is treating this sacred mountain.
PAST SRI PADA STUDIES
- OSC Class of 2010 (Sri Pada 2008trip)
- OSC Class of 2011 (Sri Pada 2009trip)
- OSC Class of 2012 (Sri Pada 2010trip)
- OSC Class of 2013 (Sri Pada 2011trip)
- OSC Class of 2014 (Sri Pada 2012trip)
- OSC Class of 2015 (Sri Pada 2013 trip)
- OSC Class of 2016 (Sri Pada 2014 trip)
- OSC Class of 2017 (Sri Pada 2015 trip)
FURTHER READING & REFERENCES
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot. May 2007. Web.
Pethiyagoda, Rohan. Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud Forest National Park. Colombo: WHT, 2013. Print.
Rodrigo, Malaka. “Eight new shrub frogs discovered from the Peak Wilderness.” Sunday Times. 2013. Web.
“Taking polythene and plastic water bottles to sacred Sri Pada Mountain banned during season.” Colombo Page. 13 December 2016. Web.
Werner, Wolfgang. Sri Lanka’s Magnificent Cloud Forests. Colombo: Wildlife Heritage Trust, 2001. Print.
Towards the end of the school year and before the South West monsoon set in OSC’s DP1 Geography class took its annual IA field study to Sinharaja rainforest. This was the 11th OSC field study at Sinharaja (the 2015 trip was our 10 year anniversary) and, like past visits, it offered an unparalleled opportunity for the students to engage in field work inside and along the edges of a protected Sri Lankan rainforest.
Keeping in mind the protected area and the impressive forest area that Sinharaja hosts, my students focused on investigating questions relating to human communities on the park boundaries. Using questionnaires and 1:1 interviews with residents they explored cropping, land use, water resources and tea patterns in the study area. There were strong spatial elements in the study that were later incorporated into their reports using GIS. This year we used relatively new 1:10,000 digital vector data from the Sri Lanka Survey Department as well as the most current population and housing data from the Sri Lanka Department of Census and Statistics.
Once again we stayed at Martin’s Wijeysinghe’s Jungle Lodge. Martin provided one of our first interviews, which helped set the stage for many more fruitful conversations. The Sinharaja Forest Department guides played a critical role in translating and being a bridge between our group and the local community. In many cases they took us to visit neighbors as well as their own families. We estimate that we were able to interview roughly 60% of the households in the Kudawa area. On our first full day of field work we were in the Kudaa village area and had a traditional lunch with Martin’s daughter’s family. On the second day we explored eastwards up a little used road to the family that has Sri Lanka spurfowl (Galloperdix bicalcarata) visitors every morning. We only heard the bird but the students conducted several memorable interviews that morning. Our group of students was supported by Kamilla who joined us as a female chaperone and frog locater par excellence.
The field work was balanced with down time spent soaking tired feet in the nearby stream and climbing Moulawella on the final day. On our way out we had the good fortune to see a rare Serendib Scops Owl (Otus thilohoffmanni) in a fern thicket. By that time the students had been inundated with views of rare birds, frogs, snakes but I hope that one day they’ll look back and realize what a special final sighting this was!
Past Blog Posts on Sinharaja
Abeywickrama. Asanga, Sinharaja Rainforest Sri Lanka. Web. 2009.
DeZoysa, Neela and Rhyana Raheem. Sinharaja: A Rainforest in Sri Lanka. Colombo: March for Conservation, 1990. Print.
Gunatilleke, C.V.S, et al. Ecology of Sinharaja Rain Forest and the Forest Dynamics Plot in Sri Lanka’s Natural World Heritage Site.Colombo: WHT Publications, 2004. Print.
Harrison, John. A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka. UK: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.
Kotagama, Sarath W and Eben Goodale. “The composition and spatial organization of mixed-species flocks in a Sri Lankan rainforest.” Forktail. 2004. Print.
Lockwood, Ian. “Into the Wet: Field Notes From Sri Lanka’s Wet Zone.” Sanctuary Asia. August/September 2007. 3-11. Print. PDF.
Lockwood, Ian. “Montane Biodiversity in the Land of Serendipity.” Sanctuary Asia. July 2010. Print.
Sri Lanka Survey Department. Sheets 80_x & 81_x (1:10,000). Colombo: 2015. Maps & Spatial Data.
Warakagoda. Deepal et. al. Birds of Sri Lanka (Helm Field Guides). London: Helms Guides, 2012. Print.
Wijeyeratne, Gehan de Silva. Sri Lankan Wildlife (Bradt Guides). Bucks, England: Bradt Travel Ltd. 2007. Print.
Vigallon, S. The Sinharaja Guidebook for Eco-Tourists. Colombo: Stamford Lake Publications, 2007. Print.
The Overseas School of Colombo’s annual Week Without Walls (WWW) is a high point for many of our students and teachers. With collective inputs of faculty members, some who have moved to other schools, the program continues to grow as a model of experiential education in a small school. I’ve had the privilege to be involved with the program from its inception. In addition to running one of the groups I coordinate the program and help to give it direction. We have now developed several distinct goals that guide the way it runs and continue to look for ways to improve the experiences. One of these key goals is the focus that is put on the host country (rather than on exotic foreign locations) and how the program fosters a better understanding of Sri Lanka. In recent years the focus has been on integrating units of study from classes with the different WWW learning experiences. In this post I’ll go back in time to review the origins of the program and then highlight some of the outcomes this year.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Experiential education is an approach in teaching and learning with roots in the writing of John Dewey and other education thinkers of the 20th Century. It is defined by the Association of Experiential Education as “a process through which a learner constructs knowledge, skills and value from direct experience” (Ibid 91). Kurt Hahn was an early practitioner of experiential education in founding the Outward Bound program and motivating the IB’s Creativity Action & Service (CAS) program. David Kolb’s 1984 publication Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development provided a theoretical basis that has underpinned the CAS program. His cycle or model of goal-setting, action, observation and reflection is a key part of the CAS learning process, and similar models are used in other areas of learning.
OSC’s WWW program had its roots in an ambitious outdoor education (OE) program that was integrated into the school’s Middle Year’s Program (MYP) in the mid 2000s. The OE program was envisioned by Elliot Bowyer, supported by Ray Lewis (MYP/DP teacher), Paul Buckley (Primary Principal), Laurie McLellan (Head of School) and several others in 2003-04 and implemented with the support of Borderlands Pvt. Ltd. Each of the middle school classes took a three-day experience and skills were built up to a culminating adventure in MYP5 that was used as a moderated sample in the PE classes. In its original design, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program was planned to be integrated alongside the PE units. This didn’t happen and we are now reconsidering it as an add on to our program. The OE ran into difficulty when there was a change in staff and the PE department lost interest in using the program to design their moderated assessments around. As it happened, other developments at school helped the OE program evolve.
An overnight trip to the summit temple on Sri Pada in January 2007 with the MYP geography students from the class of 2009 was a key event that paved the way for the WWW program as we now know it. I was leading the experience as a part of my MYP5 geography study of culture and ecosystems. There were 12 enthusiastic students from nearly as many countries. One was the daughter of an ambassador who had a security guard shadowing us discretely. We hiked up in daylight hours and spent the night in the summit temple. Oli Toore Hancock, OSC’s secondary principal was the female chaperone. Our observations of student engagement and learning sewed the seed for what would then develop into the Week Without Walls. (an account of the experience was published in IS Magazine in 2007)
At the same time OSC was supporting eight tsunami-affected community primary schools in the south of the island. Karu Gamage, the school’s legendary service coordinator for many years, was our link to these institutions and their hard working teachers. Students groups from OSC had visited the schools for short service learning trips and these experiences were woven into the initial avatars of the WWW program. Oli presented a WWW proposal to the board in March 2007 and it was approved for the 2007-08 school year.
Evolution in Experiential Learning
As the WWW took shape we worked to establish clear goals to guide the trips as experiential learning experiences rather than visits to exotic locations. Aside from incorporating the outdoor education and service learning goals, the WWW program was designed to better expose OSC students to our host nation Sri Lanka and its varied natural and cultural treasures. The ideals of the WWW were rooted in more fully realizing the OSC mission statement, which seeks to “develop the whole person as a responsible learner, striving for personal excellence within a culturally diverse environment.” It was initially only three days and all learning experiences were single (rather than mixed) class trips. By this time Anthony Coles was the secondary principal. Laurie McLellan was still the Head of School and would soon be succeeded by Areta Williams. It was a crucial time as the conflict and violence that had engulfed the country came to an end in May 2009.
The WWW program ran parallel to the OE program for the first two years. But with OE not being used in MYP classes it was decided to integrate the learning with the WWW into a single five day-long program in 2009-10. Costs were incorporated into tuition around this time (parents had paid a subsidized fee for their children in past years). MYP 1-3 (grade 6-8) trips focused on themes of culture, history and ecology in Kandy, Galle and the Cultural Triangle. MYP 4 (grade 9) kept the full outdoor education emphasis-something that was enabled when Borderlands established a permanent camp in Kitulgala. Grade 10 combined both outdoor education at Uduwalawae with two days of service work in Hambantota. DP1 (Grade 11) did a full service trip to the tsunami-affected community schools also in Hambantota.
I found that the large class trips were difficult to manage and advocated for smaller groups where students had choice in what they did. I had seen this model work extremely well on the two “project weeks” that I planned and organized while working at MUWCI. The idea was supported by other faculty members and Eileen Niedermann, who had become OSC’s secondary principal in August 2010. In January 2013 we offered the first choice “microtrips” for the MYP5 and DP1 students. The experiences were organized around themes from the Creativity Action and Service (CAS) program. Two of the four trips emphasized physical activity, one had a strong service element and a third was arts focused. These experiences also provided unique opportunities to visit once conflict isolated locations such as Jaffna and Arugam Bay as well as known places such as Sinharaja and the Cultural Triangle.
One of the key developments during Eileen’s tenure as principal has been the development of a detailed learning continuum (scope and sequence) for experiential education at OSC. The goal of this document, is to provide a framework for experiential learning in a variety of areas at OSC. It divides the learning into three broad learning areas (Knowledge & Awareness, Skills and Attitudes) across the three IB programs. With Eileen’s leadership, OSC adopted the document in 2012-13 and we continue to use it as a guide for the learning in the WWW and other experiential learning exercises.
IDUs in WWW
This year the WWW learning experiences were grafted to the recently introduced MYP Interdisciplinary Units (IDUs). The motivation for this comes from the publication Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the MYP. As stated in the guidelines MYP classes are expected to run at least one IDU a school year. Veronica Boix-Mansilla from Harvard’s Project Zero was the author of the first draft of the document. She writes in the opening paragraph:
“Quality interdisciplinary education invites students to integrate concepts, theories, methods and tools from two or more disciplines to deepen their understanding of a complex topic. In so doing, interdisciplinary instruction enlists students’ multiple capabilities (aesthetic, social, analytical) and prepares them to solve problems, create products or ask questions in ways that go beyond single disciplinary perspectives” (Boix Mansilla 1).
I had to the opportunity to work with Veronica and a group of stellar IB educators on the World Studies Extended Essay (WSEE) pilot process in 2009-11. This experience, as well as my background as an Environmental Systems teacher (one of the IB DP’s few interdisciplinary subjects) puts me squarely in the IDU cheerleading stand.
The idea being the IDU is to have two subject areas integrated into the learning goals and to address questions that can be best answered using a broad-based interdisciplinary approach. This year OSC decided to graft this requirement on to our WWW program with mixed, though mostly positive success. It works very well where the subject area teachers are also involved with the planning and implementation of their WWW. It also helps when teachers have been in Sri Lanka long enough to develop suitable learning that is closely tied to their units of study. Because we are a small school where teachers teach across grade levels this is not always possible.
There is also the issue that DP1 students mixed with MYP5 students on the WWW microtrip (choice) experiences. In my original design of learning I used the CAS umbrella and its learning outcomes to guide learning objectives. This still seems to make sense to me as the best option for them. What we tried doing this year was to fuse this with the need for MYP IDUs. To make meaningful connections between the IDU and their regular learning is still a challenge that needs to be realized.
In mid-February we hosted the culmination of the program in the annual WWW Exhibition. This is designed to be a celebration of the learning experiences that students share with the broader OSC community. I am now reviewing feedback for students and teachers as well as the finances as we get ready to start planning the 2017 WWW. One of my ideas is to rename the program to make it more reflective of our program’s unique attributes. We’ll revisit the scope and sequence and see how we can better incorporate the IDUs. I look forward to many more years of experiential learning here in Sri Lanka…
Boix-Mansilla, Verónica. MYP guide to interdisciplinary teaching and learning Middle Years. Geneva: International Baccalaureate Organization, 2010. Print.
Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the MYP. Geneva: International Baccalaureate Organization, Print & Web.
Itin, C. M. “Reasserting the Philosophy of Experiential Education as a Vehicle for Change in the 21st Century.” The Journal of Experiential Education,.22(2), 91-98. 1999. Web.
Kolb, David. A. Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 1984. Print. Web Link.
Lockwood, Ian. Experiential Education in Sri Lanka: OSC’s Week Without Walls Program. 2016. Web.
EXEMPLAR DP1 STUDENT REFLECTIONS FROM THE 2016 WWW
Sri Lanka Highlands
Rainfall patterns in southern India and Sri Lanka have been unusual in the last twelve months with the recent floods in Chennai illustrating extreme events with devastating effects on human populations. Here in the suburbs of Sri Lanka’s capital city we have been monitoring weather patterns to see to what extent this year’s rainfall is different from past years. We have our own weather station courtesy of WeatherBug but it has been down for several months after a lightening strike damaged key components. In order to get a better sense of rainfall I visited the Sri Lanka Meteorological Department to learn more about what they do. After an informal tour of their forecasting center I was able to purchase uncertified rainfall and solar radiance data for all of their 23 main stations in the last 12 months. Certified data requires official requests that take time to organize-hence the use of uncertified data. To better understand this year’s trend with past patterns I compared the 2015 data to a data set of 1960-81 averages available at the Sri Lanka Department of Statistics. In this post I highlight the data from Colombo station over the last 12 months.
OSC’s DP 2 students are currently working on a short data analysis exercise of other stations around the country to further test the guising question: to what extent is the 2015 station monthly rainfall data different than the 1960-81 averages? In the initial assessment we can make is that the pattern is different than past years with relatively dry months receiving usually high levels of rain and months where monsoon rain expected being relatively deficient. We will review the data once the November and December data is available early in 2016.
What is significant about the 2015 data, as recorded by the Colombo station, is the relatively low rainfall levels at the beginning of the South Western monsoon (May-June) and the high readings in September. In fact, September has a value (631 mm) –more than twice the long term 1961-90 average (245 mm). I also accessed freely available Accuweather rainfall data online to check how it compares to the Meteorological Department data. As is evident in the graph below, there is a slight difference in the two readings over all months of the year, perhaps the result of the measurement stations being in two different locations. There is a significant degree of variability in rainfall even in the Colombo area (as is evident when you compare the Colombo station data to Ratmalana and Katunayaka stations). However, all stations show 2015 September reading to be abnormally high.
Dramatic changes in rainfall patterns obviously encourage soul searching about potential causes. However, weather and climate patterns are notoriously complex with a variety of variables impacting the spatial and temporal weather conditions that different parts of the planet experience. El Niño, for example, is a major climatic issue at play in the South Asian monsoon this year. Several models that consider human-induced climate predict changes in monsoon and rainfall patterns in South and South East Asia (see links below). At the time of writing the world had focused it attention on the Paris United Nations Conference on Climate Conference. It will likely be some time before we fully understand the connections between Colombo’s 2015 rainfall patterns and broader global climate trends. Examining the raw data from the source has nevertheless given my students and me a unique perspective on the data and the bigger ideas that it might be connected to.
Burt, T.P and K. D. N. Weerasinghe. “Rainfall Distributions in Sri Lanka in Time and Space: An Analysis Based on Daily Rainfall Data.” Climate. 2014. Web. 9 December 2015.
“Chilly weather at night for two weeks more: Former Met. Chief.” the Sunday Times. 15 February 2015. Web.
“Devastating monsoon flooding from Sri Lanka to northwest Australia.” NOAA. 23 January 2015. Web.
“Historical Rainfall Chennai Floods Southeast India. ” Earth Observatory. 9 December 2015. Web. 9 December 2015
“How El Niño plans to hijack monsoon 2015.” Resources Research Blog. 26 May 2015. Web. 18 November 2015.
Loo, Yen Yi. “Effect of climate change on seasonal monsoon in Asia and its impact on the variability of monsoon rainfall in Southeast Asia.” Geosciences Frontiers. Volume 6, Issue 6, November 2015. Web. 12 December 2015.
“More rains and hotter days ahead.” the Sunday Times. 24 May 2015. Web.
Piratheeparajah, N. “Spatial and Temporal Variations of Rainfall in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.” Journal of Environment and Earth Science. Vol.5, No.15, 2015. Web. 12 December 2015.
Sathisraja, Anushiya. “Weather patterns have turned chaotic: Met. Dept. Chief.” the Sunday Times. 1 November 2015. Web.
Sri Lanka Department of Statistics. “Annual and Monthly rainfall observations 1961-90.” 2013. Web. 8 December 2015.
Wipulasena, Aanya and Anushiya Sathisraja. “Climate change has come to stay, Earth getting warmer.” Sunday Times. 29 November 2015. Web & Print. 9 December 2015.
World Meteorological Organization. Web.
Like other parts of the planet there are significant developments in solar energy generation in Sri Lanka. The costs of photovoltaic (PV) panels have come down and net metering allows small operators to export their power to the grid built and maintained by the Ceylon Electricity Board. After many years of reading about the solar revolution it has been thrilling to have a colleague install a system at her house. Encouraged by these developments, OSC’s DP Environmental Systems and Societies (ES&S) students are investigating the basics of PV-generated energy. It has given me a chance to brush up on power and energy concepts as are applicable when talking about the generation of renewable energy.
My personal interest in energy goes back to my father Merrick Lockwood who has been working with alternative energy projects since the late 1970s. His significant work was on a biomass-fueled Stirling cycle engine that produced power to run a rice mill. You can about the joys and tribulations of his work in Bangladesh in How I Built a 5HP Stirling Engine (it is an intriguing account narrating the Rice Husk Energy project though the title was not Merrick’s choice). Stirling engines were a major focus point but Merrick has always been interested in an array of conventional and non-conventional energy technologies. I have strong childhood memories of PV cells, batteries, meters and literature on renewable energy in the wonderful clutter of his office and workshop. Earlier this year my alma mater KIS installed a 2 kw set of panels though the tireless work of Class of 1952 alum Dr. Clarence Maloney. His efforts helped get me thinking about solar energy as a viable option.
Sri Lanka sits in an enviable location to tap into renewable energy. Because it is so close to the equator (6°-9.5° N) it is bathed in insolation (solar irradiance) throughout the year. Sri Lanka is blessed with high rainfall in its “wet zone” and here it taps into large and medium-sized hydroelectric schemes which generate about half of all the electricity use in a year. Sri Lanka’s coastal areas offer great potential for wind power generation (something being explored in the Kalpitiya region). Biomass fuel provides for much of the country’s cooking needs in rural areas and if managed correctly can be a sustainable energy source. At the moment Sri Lanka’s electricity demand is growing and it gets significant power (up to 40-45%) from thermal plants burning heavy oil and coal. The chart below shows the source of electricity on 16th November 2015. Because of the high rainfall in the catchment areas there is optimal hydroelectric production (68% of the total).
The catalysis for my current interest interest in solar energy at OSC was my colleague’s Chamilla Ratnaweera decision to install an array of PV panels on her rooftop in July this year. She and her husband have sixteen 0.46 m2 panels for a total of 23.36 m2. They have a net-metering arrangement, which means the power that they generate goes straight into the grid and runs their meter backwards (“exporting” units on their bill). When they draw power (it is mostly at night and on weekends) the system takes electricity from the grid. Not having batteries and having to deal with the storage of solar generated electricity simplifies the process in net metering. It assumes, of course, that there is functioning electricity grid.
In September Chamilla’s panels produced an average of 14.3 kWh of solar energy every day (see graph below) and they have not paid an electric bill for the last three months! What is even more remarkable is that have also purchased a Nissan Leaf eclectic car and are able to charge the vehicle and meet their electrical energy requirements with their panels! Chamilla has access to daily, monthly and yearly data on solar energy generated (in kWh). There are several companies offering schemes and they purchased their set up through Solar Edge (marketed here by JLanka Technologies). According to their company literature a similar set with installation costs roughly LKR 1.1 million (US$ 7,700). Our class has been checking on her daily power generation every day for the last two weeks.
As a part of this study I visited the Sri Lanka Department of Meteorology on November 6th. On this initial trip I had several interesting discussions with the meteorologists who run operations and I was also able to purchase solar radiance and rainfall data. The graphs below chart solar radiance (in MJ/m2/day) against the solar energy generated by Chamilla’s panels (in kWh/day). Other than the days where there was maintenance on the panels there is a clear pattern between radiance and solar energy generated as one would expect.
To better understand solar energy the class tested a small 31 x 37 cm 15w panel that the Physics class purchased last year. Will Duncan, the Head of Science, gave me a primer and demonstration on how to rig up the voltage and current meters and make calculations on energy generated by the panel. We are using Vernier’s Labquest2 devices and these are versatile data loggers that allow students to gather raw data from a variety of probes. This year we purchased the pyranometer probe, which measures irradiance (in w/m2) and allows you to then calculate the efficiency of solar panels. I ran trials with the Labquest simultaneously taking in data from three probes (voltage, current and irradiance). The raw data is then imported into Loggerpro where power and efficiency is graphed and analyzed.
Weather is obviously a major factor in producing solar energy. We have just experienced unseasonably wet months in September and October. In fact his last Sunday- an overcast, gloomy day that experienced rainfall for much of the day- Chamilla’s panels generated 6.89 kWh of solar energy! That is lower than the 14.34 kWh September average but still significant. We have not yet done a full cost benefit analysis of the panels but it is quite clear that they pay for themselves quickly. If the electricity bill was roughly LKR 25,000 a month, the system would pay for itself in under four years. The company, like many here in Sri Lanka, is advertising the system to have a 25 year lifespan. If you are a house owner or run a large institution, such as a school like OSC, investing in a PV systems makes both sense for the climate and your wallet.
In the next post I’ll explore rainfall data in these last few months in order look at patterns and changes from past years.
Biello, David. “Less polluting energy sources are proliferating in the U.S. If other nations join in, the results could have global impact.” Scientific American. 18 November 2015. Web. 24 November 2015.
Jayawardena, Dulip. “Potential for renewable energy in Sri Lanka.” Sunday Times. 31 October 2010. Web. 14 November 2015.
NASA. Global Maps: Net Radiation. Web. 17 November 2015.
NASA. Net Radiation (1 Month). Web Data Portal. 17 November 2015.
Plank, Alexandria R. et al. Renewable Energy With Vernier. Vernier, 2012. Print & Web.
Renné, Dave et al. Solar Resource Assessment for Sri Lanka and Maldives. Boulder, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2003. Web. 14 November 2015.
Renewable Energy for Rural Economic Development Project-Sri Lanka. Web. 13 November 2015.
Rodrigo, Chatura. “The Road to Becoming an Energy Independent Country: Can We Deliver?” Talking Economics. 5 August 2015. Web.
Solar GIS. Irradiance Portal. Web. 14 November 2015.
Sri Lanka Sustainable Development Authority. Solar Resource Atlas of Sri Lanka. Web. 14 November 2015.
Sri Lanka Sustainable Development Authority. Sri Lanka Energy Balance 2007: An Analysis of Energy Sector Performance. Web. 14 November 2015.