Results tagged “SELF” from Bob Freling's Solar Blog

There’s a sweet irony watching long-time SELF board member Larry Hagman turn the world renown oil tycoon J.R. Ewing into a conscientious solar executive while retaining his famously wicked laugh.

“Shine, baby, shine,” chuckles a fiendish Hagman as he coins the new energy mantra for our time in a series of advertisements for SolarWorld. He’s playing off “Drill, baby, drill” of course, but few can argue with his message.

Serving on SELF’s board since 2000, Larry walks the talk. In 2003, he installed what is surely the largest residential solar system in the United States, if not the world, at his hilltop home in Ojai, Calif., north of LA. The combined arrays on his property total about 90 kilowatts. 

Now with his catalytic involvement in SolarWorld’s advertising campaign, he has leveraged his passion for solar energy to help SELF as well. Through its Solar2World donation program to aid communities in developing regions, SolarWorld donated solar panels to SELF for a Partners In Health (PIH) clinic in Haiti in 2009. After an earthquake devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, SELF was among nonprofit aid groups that SolarWorld agreed to supply with even bigger panel donations to ease the Haiti crisis. Thanks to Larry’s efforts, SolarWorld’s generous donation of 100KW of solar panels will power five more clinics in Haiti. For SELF, this is an integral part of our overall solar healthcare partnership with Partners in Health (PIH).

Thank you, SolarWorld, and thank you Larry.



The New York Times covered the story here.

Update: in June SELF completed solar installations at two more of the clinics operated by PIH’s Haitian counterpart, Zanmi Lasante (ZL).  And the solar industry, too, deserves tremendous credit for stepping up to help. The 5.8 kW solar-diesel hybrid system at the Hinche clinic was made possible by generous in-kind donations from the Solar Liberty Foundation and Sunsense Solar. At Cerca la Source, SELF technicians installed a 10 kW system with panels donated from Q-Cells SE, and money donated by Good Energies Foundation helped fund the balance of materials. At the Cerca la Source clinic, one of the key goals was to improve security by using outdoor night lighting throughout the grounds. We’re finding, though, that solar power gives many other benefits to these impoverished communities, sometimes unexpected. Within minutes of the first lights coming on, our project director saw a small boy standing underneath them, reading a book!

Solar-powered drip irrigation systems significantly enhance household incomes and nutritional intake of villagers in arid sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new Stanford University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study found that solar-powered pumps installed in remote villages in the West African nation of Benin provide a cost-effective way of delivering much-needed irrigation water, particularly during the long dry season.

Stanford University logo.JPG




We partnered with Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment to evaluate the impact of our Solar Market Garden in Benin's Kalalé district. 

I blogged about the our involvement in Benin in an earlier post titled - Food Security: Using Solar Power to Transform Rural Agriculture in Benin's Kalalé District - noting how we were first contacted by Dr. Mamoudou Setamou, a native of Kalalé.  Our hopes for Benin were also documented by Yann Arthus-Bertrand in the The End of Oil, a recent episode of his "Earth from Above" series.

While the results of the project are very encouraging, I want to emphasize that they are just one part, an important one, of course, of SELF's Solar Integrated Development Model.

The Solar Integrated Development (SID) Model developed by SELF is based on three principles:

SELF Help

Solar electrification projects are chosen by the people in rural communities as full participants, acting on their own behalf. The villagers determine priorities as well as the project scope.

SELF Reliance

Solar systems are purchased by villagers through micro-credit financing. Each family pays for its own system and participates in the ownership of community systems, spreading development funds further to help more people.

SELF Determination

Villagers, both men and women, are trained to install, maintain and replicate their solar systems. In addition, a store of spare parts is provided as part of the initial project funding. Local partners are assisted in establishing a supply chain for continuing purchase of spare parts.

Each project flows from the needs and leadership of the community. The community is committed to and empowered by full participation in all project phases including design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Solar Integrated Development model poster FINAL 6.29.2009 copy.png

SELF partners with government, corporations and non-governmental organizations to develop and promote additional technologies and systems such as solar-powered micro-irrigation, crop-processing equipment, internet connectivity, telemedicine and commercial applications to help broaden the scope and impact of solar-generated electricity.

A solar electric system provides 20 years worth of energy at a fixed cost. Utilizing the latest technologies, projects are implemented with the most reliable and cost-effective equipment.

Beyond providing the electrical energy source, our Solar Integrated Development Model provides targeted applications, tools and hardware such as LED lights, sewing machine motors, oil expellers, vaccine refrigerators, water pumps, and computers, often through microfinance loans, so that community members have the tools to turn electrical energy into economic empowerment . The goal is not simply that people have electricity; it is that they immediately benefit from having electricity.

SELF's solar installation has made a dramatic impact on the health and quality of life for the people of Bessassi and Dunkassa in northern Benin. But there is much more work to be done. While the immediate next step is to drill wells in each of these two villages - ensuring access to clean, safe drinking water - there are 42 more villages anxiously waiting for solar-powered drip irrigation. SELF conducted site assessments in August 2009 and the wells were drilled in December 2009, with solar-powered pumps scheduled to be installed in March 2010. But we still need to raise money for drip irrigation systems for the additional villages.

Last, but certainly not least, SELF has promised to provide whole-village solar electric systems to each of the rural farming communities in Kalalé. By bringing solar energy to power their schools, homes, health clinics, street lights and microenterprise centers, we can empower Beninese women and their families to lift themselves out of poverty, ensuring a brighter future for all.

Please help us continue empowering the women of Africa, and bring hope to them and their children.

SEE ALSO:

- Saving Sub-Sahara Africa a Drip at a Time Miller-Mccune

- Solar-powered irrigation improves diet and income in rural sub-Sahara DNA


hopenhagen.jpgI’m lovin’ it”??  There is still hope in Copenhagen. And a sense that our time is running out.  The sincerity of the world’s young people is on full display, as Bishop Desmond Tutu observed

copenhagenpeace.jpgThe question I’m raising is: can our governments and our businesses show the same level of commitment?

Earlier, Bishop Tutu had raised the question of how much rich nations are willing to pay poor ones to secure emission cuts.  The point he made is that one we have been making for some time now: the fight against energy poverty must be a global priority.

tutu.jpgOur position is simple: energy is a human right.

A few days ago, Prince Nasheed of the Maldives eloquently invited leaders to join him in signing a pact for the survival of their low-lying coastal countries, instead of a “suicide pact” at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen. Watch:



Steven Chu, the US Secretary of Energy, announced a plan to deploy clean technology on Monday, and I know SELF can play an effective role in his Climate Renewables and Efficiency Deployment Initiative.

In yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin cites the Solar Electric Light Fund  as an organization with a proven track record of bringing cost-effective solar solutions to poor villages in the developing world. Working with government, industry and non-governmental organization partners, SELF has facilitated solar electricity projects in twenty countries, including Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burundi, China, Côte d’Ivoire, India, Indonesia, Losotho, Navajo Nation, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

We’ve been at it for twenty years.  Here’s what we do:

  • Bring partners and participants together
  • Establish “in-country” joint ventures and “for-profit partnerships”
  • Develop projects with community and local stakeholders
  • Identify options, formalize project design
  • Develop written proposals
  • Design micro-finance mechanisms
  • Provide technical design of photovoltaic systems
  • Procure project equipment
  • Train solar technicians
  • Manage system installation
  • Manage partner relationships
  • Build the capacity of local partners
  • Prepare evaluations and reports

Our goal?

We work to deliver solar power and wireless communications to rural villages in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

SELF
facilitates a new generation of “whole village” solar electrification projects to power water pumping and purification, drip irrigation, health clinics (including vaccine refrigeration), schools, household and community lighting, and income-generating micro-enterprises that can be scaled up through the private sector or through public/private partnerships.


brightgreen.jpgplanethope_s.jpgBack in Copenhagen, I had the pleasure of meeting Haakon, the Crown Prince of Norway, on Saturday at the Bright Green Expo

The Norwegians are taking Copenhagen very seriously, and are also deeply committed to eradicating poverty in developing nations.

It’s time.  The world has waited long enough.

selfannualreport.gif

2008 was an extraordinary year of accomplishment and transition for SELF. The projects you’ll find described in our annual report have taken our work to new levels:

  • In Benin, West Africa, our Solar Market Gardens – solar-powered drip irrigation systems – have vastly improved villagers’ nutrition and income;
  • Building on our collaboration with the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, SELF has begun solar-electrifying clinics across Rwanda and Lesotho through our Solar Health Care Partnership with Partners In Health, the organization co-founded by Dr. Paul Farmer; and
  • In the Eastern Cape, South Africa, our Solar Rural Schools Project – installing and powering computer labs, Internet access and learning software – is bringing the world to one of its remotest corners
We’re glad to report that our support came from both individuals and institutions; thank you for your help:
selfcontributions.gifOur focus is on our projects. Download our annual report and learn more about SELF. Find out how we:

  • Installed more than 32 kilowatts (kW) of solar electric systems in 5 health clinics and 3 schools;
  • Impacted more than 55,000 people in Rwanda, Lesotho, Benin and South Africa;
  • Bridged the digital divide for over 3,000 students and their families in the remote Eastern Cape province of South Africa;
  • Continued monitoring and evaluating the success of our multi-phase solar drip irrigation project in Benin; added training and introduction of new seed varieties;
  • Began design and installation of solar electric systems for 5 additional health centers in Rwanda to be completed in January 2009;
  • Completed assessments and site planning for the electrification of 10 health clinics in Haiti, 6 clinics in Rwanda and 1 clinic in Burundi; and
  • Began preparations for the “whole village” electrification of two villages in Benin; this phase will supply power for drinking water wells, home and street lighting, schools, health clinics, and microenterprise centers.

selfefficiency.gifOn the verge of our 20th anniversary, we are now poised to harness the rising tide of awareness and fight two of the greatest challenges of the century: climate change and energy poverty.

Will you join us once again?


school array4.jpg

In South Africa—fifteen years after the end of apartheid—poverty still predominates in much of the rural areas, especially in the Eastern Cape, the birth place of Nelson Mandela.  While the South African Department of Education has a mandate to provide computer literacy skills to all high school students by 2012, the fact remains that some 16,000 schools in South Africa still lack access to electricity.

The challenge of providing electricity to so many rural schools in South Africa is not likely to be met by ESKOM, the country’s largest electric public utility, considering that ESKOM is having increasing difficulty keeping up with its current demand, and last year introduced load-shedding and rolling black-outs as a way of dealing with the nation-wide shortage of electric power.

Building on the success of a previous initiative in the KwaZulu/Natal region of South Africa, where Myeka High School—located deep in the Valley of a Thousand Hills outside of Durban—became the first rural, off-grid high school in the country to be equipped with a solar-powered computer lab, SELF teamed up last year with several local partners to bring solar electricity and wireless Internet access to three remote schools in the Eastern Cape.

With funding from the Kellogg Foundation and JPMorgan Chase, and with additional support from Dell, eKhaya, LearnThings, and Dabba Telecommunications, we installed a 4.5 kilowatt solar system at Zwelenqaba Senior Secondary School, located near the town of Coffee Bay on the “wild coast” of South Africa.   The solar system is now powering 25 laptop computers that were donated to the project by the Dell South Africa Development Fund, as well as a printer and several other peripheral appliances.  In addition, two nearby Junior Secondary Schools, Bafazi JSS and Kwa’Ntshunqe JSS, were equipped with smaller solar sytems and computer labs.

classroom 9.jpg

All three schools are connected to each other by means of a solar-powered WiFi mesh network, as well as to the Internet via the local cellular network.  The Video-In, Knowledge-Out (VIKO) server donated by Dabba Telecommunications contain 1500 hours of interactive video lessons.

LearnThings provided training for the teachers on how to integrate computer skills and online learning into their curriculum, while eKkaya ICT has been working with Zwelenqaba and the two nearby junior secondary schools on a program of cultural exchange and remote training via the Internet.

An official launch of the project took place on August 1, 2008.  I traveled to South Africa to join in the festivities and to check out the completed solar installation.  To get to the school, one has to fly from Johannesburg to Mtata in the Eastern Cape, and from there, drive for two hours on a paved, then dirt road.   By the time my colleague Rael Lissoos from Dabba Telecommunications and I arrived to the site, it was already dark, but the computer lab shone brightly.   And the computer instructor was eager to show off the brand new Dell laptops before storing them away for the night in the safe that we had provided to the school.

sa_women.jpgThe launch could not have gone better.  The kids are ecstatic to have electricity and computers at their school, and they’re eager to soak up all kinds of new information.  Soon they will have a webcam in the classroom, and we’ll be able to videoconference with each other! 

In the March/April 2001 edition of Foreign Affairs, Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, along with co-authors Thomas Craig and Stuart Hart, referenced SELF as a good example of an organization using "disruptive technology" to advance economic development for the poorest of the poor. 

In his recent article, "The Need for New Value Networks", published in eGov monitor, the online platform of the UK-based Policy Dialogue International, Christensen says current efforts to shift to more efficient, lower-carbon energy sources are based on a misguided approach.

"History has shown that cramming new technologies into existing value networks rarely succeeds", says Christensen at the outset of the article. To illustrate his point, he describes how the leading consumer electronic companies in the fifties (such as Maganov, Zenith and RCA) were hesitant to replace their vacuum-tube based radios and televisions with transistor-based models because the latter offered lower fidelity and more static.

Then Sony came along, explains Christiansen, and figured out a way to market its low-priced, low-quality products by selling transistor radios to "people who didn’t already have a radio (primarily young adults) for listening in a new context (away from home, but out of the car) through a channel that the incumbent companies didn’t use (department stores)." The quality of its transistor radios gradually improved over time, and Sony evolved into one of the world’s most successful consumer electronic companies. Christensen adds that "most of Sony’s vacuum tube-based competitors never successfully made the switch to transistors. They are all gone now."

Christiansen then goes on to draw a parallel between the short-sightedness of the vacuum tube-based electronics companies of yesterday and the misguided approach at innovation that, in his opinion, is prevalent among today’s incumbent energy and utility companies.

As long as fossil fuels represent the cheapest and most convenient way to power our homes and cars, argues Christiansen, "making alternative energy sources cost-effective and plug-compatible in this system is a very, very difficult challenge."

"But what about in the developing world?", asks Christiansen towards the end of his article in eGov monitor. "What about applications where the attributes of alternative energy are valuable and unique when compared to traditional fuels?" "Spending our time and effort, Christiansen concludes, on identifying those applications where the virtues of alternative energy resources are most valued relative to the traditional options will likely do more to accelerate the pace of innovation in the energy sector than government subsidy or tax credit."

In parts of the world that have been never had access to electricity, it’s amazing what a difference a few watts of energy can make. For example, installing a 50 watt solar panel on the roof of a thatched hut will generate enough power to run a few lights, a radio, and a few small appliances for 4-5 hours each evening. That might not sound like much to us, but rest assured, it’s totally transformative for a rural family that has previously been forced to retreat each evening after the sun goes down into a home lit dimly, if at all, by candles or smoky kerosene lamps.

Or take healthcare. A few hundred watts’ worth of solar panels installed on a rural clinic is enough to power a few lights and small vaccine refrigerator. Immunization programs often breakdown in rural areas without power because there’s no way to store vaccines, which must be kept between 0 and 8°C.

Or consider water. A submersible pump, powered by a 2 kilowatt (that’s 2000 watts) solar array, can supply a village of 3000 people with their daily water requirements. Imagine that -- 2000 watts and you’ve got clean water for an entire village! (By way of comparison, some hair dryers use more than a 1000 watts of power.)

The list goes on and on. Whether you’re talking about health, education, or economic development, a tiny (by our standards) investment of energy "capital" in an unelectrified community will yield enormous dividends to that community, dividends that will continue to pay off for decades to come.

It is ironic that some of the poorest, most isolated places on earth have leapfrogged the entire fossil fuel age and traditional telecom infrastructure by plugging directly into solar power and wireless communication networks.

As we forge ahead with new breakthroughs in thin-film solar cells, LED lighting, advanced batteries, next-generation satellites, and long-range WiFi networking solutions, I, for one, hope that these new technologies will continue to have the greatest impact in the developing world.

The third of humanity who are still off-grid and off-line are waiting desperately to be electrified and to be connected. Perhaps the first company to figure out a way of delivering sustainable power and communications to these two billion people will become the next Sony...of the energy world!

When I did the Massive Change interview back in 2004, I was asked mostly about solar home lighting systems and the use of microfinance as a way of making this technology affordable to rural households in the developing world. Aside from a brief discussion of wireless communications, I didn't really go into the multiple ways in which solar energy can be used for a wide range of applications beyond the home at the community level.

At the time, we had just launched our project in northern Nigeria, where each of three villages had been equipped with solar systems for water pumping, school, health clinic, street lighting, mosque, and a microenterprise center. This holistic approach later evolved into what has become our "solar integrated development" (SID) model.

On Oct. 28, 2005, SELF was honored as a recipient of Chevron's 2005 Conservation Award. Watch this clip of Chevron´s video presentation at the award ceremony >>

Formulated by the United Nations as a blueprint for meeting the needs of the world’s poorest citizens, the Millennium Development Goals, or “MDGs” as they’re referred to, set forth a bold and comprehensive prescription for eradicating extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, and protecting the environment.

Astonishingly, access to modern energy has not been included by the United Nations as one of the Millennium Development Goals, despite the fact that, without an energy component, none of the MDGs are ultimately achievable.

Didn't they know that Energy is a Human Right?

They should've asked my friend Dr. Paul Farmer (Partners in Health).

He'd tell them that a reliable energy source is essential for the operation of hospitals and clinics.

With the exception of Egypt and South Africa, 85 percent of Africa’s 680 million people live in rural areas without electricity.


Diesel generators are the traditional solution — but hardly the best. Diesel is expensive and polluting, including greenhouse gases. And generator breakdowns are common, with replacement parts typically miles and days away.

Faced with a choice between solar and diesel at five rural health clinics in eastern Rwanda, Partners In Health took the solar path, collaborating with SELF on systems for the communities of Mulindi, Rusumo, Rukira, Nyarabuye, and Kirehe. The systems are solar- diesel hybrid systems that generate 90 percent or more of their power from the sun, with diesel generators for back-up during prolonged heavy usage, or in periods of rain.

Back to Dr. Farmer.  Here's what he said about the impact of solar power on the operations of his clinics:

"You can't do this without electricity. Because you're not going to have an operation room. You're not going to have a laboratory. You're not going to see people at night..."

More on Partners In Health and SELF here»

“Energy is a human right.”   We use the phrase daily at the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a Washington, DC – based nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring solar power to rural and remote villages in the developing world.

But what does the phrase really mean?  After all, people talk about human rights; they talk about social and economic rights; and some folks – like Dr. Paul Farmer, famed “physician to the poor” and co-founder of Partners In Health, – even talk about health as a human right

But “energy” as human right?  Now that’s a new one! 

It’s precisely because this notion of “energy as a human right” may strike many as being a bit odd or abstruse that I’ve decided the time has finally come for me to sit down and start this blog as a way to educate as many people as I can about a subject I care deeply about and which has huge implications for the future sustainability of  the planet.

I’m talking about the fact that some two billion people—almost a third of humanity—still live  without access to electricity.  Located mostly in rural villages in the developing world, these people are forced to retreat each evening into homes that are illuminated, if at all, by the dim light of candles or smoky, polluting kerosene lanterns. 

africaatnight.gif
The problem is especially acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where in many countries as much as 80-90% of the population is without power.  If you look at satellite image of the earth at night, Africa appears, literally, as a “dark continent”. 
 
This is an issue in which I have been personally involved for the past 15 years, ever since I first got involved with SELF.

At the time, I was living and working in Taiwan.   I had read about China’s first “solar village”, a tiny hamlet in the hard-scrabble mountains of Gansu Province.  I wrote to SELF and requested to visit Gansu, and perhaps write a story about how solar energy had impacted the lives of those  poor farmers who had been living in darkness for centuries. 

One thing led to the next, and before I knew it, I was hired to spend two months in Gansu, overseeing the solar household lighting  initiative that had been launched by SELF, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the W. Alton Jones Foundation.

There, in this isolated, dirt poor corner of China, I got to observe families turn on a light bulb for the very first time in their lives.

The following passage is an excerpt of a letter from a farmer who had just installed a solar home system:

As the fixtures were about to be plugged in, we waited breathlessly. In a flash, the lights came on, and as they did, an old man from the village rubbed his eyes in disbelief, and exclaimed, “I have long heard that city folks do not need oil to generate light, but in all my seventy years, this is the first time to actually see such a phenomenon with my own eyes. What a beautiful sight to behold!”

Over the course of the next decade and a half, in my work with the SELF, I have witnessed, in village after village, the heavy toll that “energy poverty” exacts on the health, education, and livelihoods of people who do not have access to electricity.

I have also been fortunate enough to see and document the numerous benefits that even modest amounts of electricity, generated by the sun, can deliver to previously unelectrified households and communities.

The purpose of this blog is twofold: first, to inform and educate the general public about energy poverty and its deep relevance to virtually every aspect of sustainable development; and second, to chronicle the many examples of how solar energy has been, and continues to be, harnessed for improvements in the health, education, and economic well-being of rural villagers who have, for far too long, been deprived of what should be a sine qua non of civilized life in the 21st century.

Tags