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Reserva Nacional do Gilé – when off-grid meets off-road

The Dakar Rally off-road race is quite something, yet it seems building an off-grid system in remote parts of Africa is equally daunting – 8 tons of equipment needed to be transported to the Reserva Nacional do Gilé, over ‘roads’ like those shown above.

The reserve is located in the province of Zambézia, in Mozambique. With national protection status this gem of an area protects various species of fauna, along with rhinoceros and elephant, not to mention, pangolins, striped jackals, spotted hyenas, lions, leopards, wild cats, reptiles and various species of birds.

To continue to manage and protect the reserve its headquarters needed to be refurbished – and that meant a new off-grid power plant for 22 buildings.

Who you gonna call?

Grid Busters

It was Victron Energy specialist SMART Energysystems International based in Karlsruhe, Germany that got the call from their partner SwissSolar Lda in Maputo, Mozambique – and as Martin Hauck of SMART Energysystems told me:

“We knew the challenge was multifaceted, not least the logistics of getting 8 tons of equipment to site, then there was the installation itself – in the middle of nowhere – plus the fact that the client asked for local involvement. All this combined didn’t make our task any easier!

In order to have no surprises on site, our partner decided to get the equipment to Mozambique’s capital Maputo first and make a virtual installation of the entire project, together with his team, before transporting it all to the reserve. Once the virtual install was done it then took the lorry four days to reach Mocuba, the last town before entering the reserve. From there it was a 15 hour, 270km off-road drive to reach the installation site.”


A local civil engineering company was commissioned to construct the equipment building and solar array support.

The building was sited beneath the solid wooden support structure, with the solar array mounted on top of that.

The installation and commissioning of the off-grid power system was done by Mr. Ziegler from SwissSolar Lda. The solar system was installed quickly within a few days, with power to the 22 buildings via 1,100m of cabling being completed over the next few weeks.

System design

The solar array is 12.6 kWp and feeds a VRLA battery storage bank from Hoppecke, which has 60kWh of total energy storage.

The power system is designed for 3-phase, which includes a pre-wired plug’n’play control cabinet utilising:


It never fails to amaze me with the remote locations and challenges that go into installing Victron Energy systems. This project was clearly no exception and they didn’t even have mobile phone use on site, so it’s testament to the companies involved that their prior planning paid off – in what is clearly a successful project.

Mobile phone use or not, apparently the Welotec GPRS router is managing to connect to the VRM portal. You can check it out here:

John Rushworth


Thanks to Bob Hopman of Victron Energy for making me aware of this project and to Martin Hauck (Technical Director of SMART Energysystems International AG) for the information and images used in this blog.


SMART Energysystems International

SwissSolar Lda (Project partner)


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