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Missioneers to help turn on the power for developing countries

Posted: Mar 28, 2014


Modern technology is greatly expanding the possibilities of getting electricity into the remote regions of the world.


I-TEC works with international organizations to address their electrical needs.

When it comes to delivering power to remote or devastated locations around the globe, I-TEC is the expert. Olivet students and faculty in the Department of Engineering had an introduction to this organization’s work when its president brought a power container — custom-designed by expert volunteers — to Olivet’s campus recently.

Dr. Shane Ritter, who will become engineering department chair on July 1, 2014, has worked with I-TEC for the past five years. He is excited about this new opportunity for Olivet’s innovators with a Christian purpose, also known as missioneers.

“We want our students and faculty to assist I-TEC in its efforts to provide high and low voltage services to mission areas, hospitals, schools, orphanages and a host of other locations,” Dr. Ritter says.

Challenging students to think globally

The power container is an actual shipping container, 20 feet long by 8 feet high. It has been customized and adapted to provide electrical services in a location where power is either not available, not reliable or is too expensive to purchase. Power of varying wattages is provided by a combination of solar panels and gel-cell batteries. The container is ideal for delivering directly to underdeveloped countries via boat, train, semi or even helicopter, depending on the particular needs.

“During I-TEC’s visit, I learned more about the electric power circumstances in Africa and about the use of solar energy in the I-TEC power container,” says Sam Kleindienst (freshman, engineering major, Peotone, Ill.).

Since 1986, Tom Garber — I-TEC’s founder, president and high voltage project coordinator — has worked to deliver power containers, generators and other electrical services to faith-based organizations in more than 40 countries. He hosted Olivet groups as they toured a power container, explaining its operation and answering questions.

“We know what works and what doesn’t work,” says Tom. “Our goal is to deliver simpler, stronger, cleaner power to countries that need it. These containers are designed to stay in the country permanently. We train the locals to care for the system and want them to have ownership of it.”

Real problems, real solutions

Soon, I-TEC will deliver power containers to locations in Papua New Guinea and Burundi. The container for Burundi will provide 20 KW using 85 solar panels and 24 gel-cell batteries.

“I’m impressed with the straightforward resourcefulness of I-TEC’s staff,” says Nathan Honeyager (freshman, engineering major, Waukesha, Wis.). “I-TEC’s design takes into account a relative lack of technical expertise in the target areas, and emphasizes durable design, independently functioning electronics and sustainable energy choices. Tom Garber and his staff also challenged Olivet’s engineering students, as future engineers, to perhaps help them tackle and improve issues such as cost-efficiency and ease of construction.”

I-TEC is a nondenominational ministry utilizing volunteers to meet the technical needs of missionaries and not-for-profit organizations worldwide, and to actively support local and international disaster relief. Services include: surveys for power quality and system improvements, new construction, and the rebuilding of existing systems as well as generator installations, maintenance and repairs. Expansion of services into new technology, such as solar systems, hydro generation and wind turbines, is on the horizon.