Results tagged “Solar Electric Light Fund” from Bob Freling's Solar Blog

To support the long-term rebuilding of Haiti, Grammy award-winning Reggae band Steel Pulse has donated 100% of the proceeds from sales of their new single Hold On [4 Haiti] to the Solar Electric Light Fund and our “Solar Health Care Partnership” with Partners In Health.

You can learn more about our project at holdon4haiti.org, or watch Paul Farmer explain what we’re doing:

The money will be used to solar electrify PIH clinics in Haiti (see previous story with Larry Hagman).

Steel Pulse have been true to their roots for over thirty-five years. One of Bob Marley’s favorites, the band has maintained a sense of fierce integrity as it strives to get the message of love and unity across to all people. VIBE magazine has called them “the best live reggae band on earth.” British-born Jamaicans, Steel Pulse started their career opening for the Clash, the Sex Pistols and Generation X. They even played at President Clinton’s inaugural celebration - the only reggae band to do so. They are working on a new album and DVD and are currently on tour.

Donate and download the song below, or by visiting holdon4haiti.org >>




Don’t forget to tell your friends!

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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!

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Walt Ratterman—one of the most dedicated and intrepid solar pioneers that I have ever had the honor of knowing—was tragically killed last month when the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th leveled the Hotel Montana in which he was staying. The world has lost a truly great man, solar professional and global humanitarian.

I had heard about Walt for years, but didn’t get to meet him in person until the summer of 2006 when I traveled to Rwanda to check out the first of five solar electric systems that SELF was in the process of installing at rural clinics run by Partners In Health (PIH).  Aside from Walt’s deep technical knowledge and experience installing photovoltaic (PV)  systems around the world, one of the things that struck me most about Walt was his tireless work ethic.  He never seemed to take a rest.  Typically up by 4:00am, Walt would spring into action with a series of calisthenics, followed by a checklist review of everything he aimed to accomplish over the next 24 hours.  And after a long, grueling day in the field followed by a quick supper, instead of relaxing over a beer or two, Walt would inevitably fire up his laptop and respond to a string of emails and/or do some additional planning for his next project.

A couple of other attributes come to mind when I think about Walt.  First, he loved to teach and always took special pleasure in training local technicians and villagers in the basics of PV installation and maintenance.  One of my favorite photos of Walt is the one below, which features him and a couple of Rwandans wiring the back of a solar panel.


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Second, Walt had a profound sense of kindness and compassion towards those less fortunate and treated everyone with the utmost respect and dignity.  He also possessed a fierce sense of social justice, which no doubt helped to fuel his passion to provide solar electricity to some of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged peoples.

Third, Walt was an avid reader and student of history and world religions. One conversation that I remember fondly was about our common experiences with Tzu Chi, a Buddhist relief organization founded by Master Zheng Yan in Taiwan.  Having lived in Taiwan for six years, I had met Master Zheng Yan on several occasions and was familiar with Tzu Chi’s humanitarian outreach in Taiwan and overseas.  You can imagine my surprise and delight when Walt informed me that not only had he met Master Zheng Yan but that he had been appointed by her as a commissioner of Tzu Chi in connection with humanitarian work he had carried out in Afghanistan!

Which brings me to Knightsbridge International (KBI), the organization under whose auspices Walt traveled to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 to provide aid to people who were fleeing from the Taliban.  As a member of Knightsbridge, a humanitarian and medical aid organization founded in 1995, Walt had journeyed to and provided relief in far-flung places such as Burma, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Sudan, and the Philippines. Some of Walt’s humanitarian feats in the first few years of the new millennium were beautifully captured in Adrian Belic’s 2006 award-winning documentary Beyond the Call about Knightsbridge International.

After completing the electrification of PIH's health centers in Rwanda, SELF asked Walt to assist with addtional projects in Rwanda, as well as to continue working with SELF on the solar electrification of PIH clinics in Losotho and Haiti.  Walt also helped us solar electrify a new hospital in Burundi that had been built by PIH's sister organization, Village Health Works.

Walt was, without doubt, the most dedicated and hardest-working project manager Jeff Lahl and I have ever worked with.  We would have gladly brought him on full time, but Walt preferred to work independently, to many organizations’ benefit.

He established SunEnergy Power International (SunEPI) to serve as a vehicle for all the humanitarian renewable energy projects that he undertook in remote, rural parts of the world.  Since 2007, Walt and SunEPI had been working with USAID to assess healthcare energy systems in Haiti, an initiative which dovetailed nicely with our plans to assist PIH in Haiti.  He oversaw our 10-kilowatt installation at the PIH-run clinic in Boucan Carre, helped secure a donation of PV equipment, and involved USAID in the project

For a long time after the January 12th earthquake in Haiti, Walt’s family—along with many of his friends and colleagues, myself included—continued to believe that he had survived the collapse of the Hotel Montana and was patiently waiting for the rubble to be cleared away so that he could refill his water bottle and get back to work. Within days of the disaster, a special Facebook page had been set up by Walt’s family to serve as a conduit for information about search and rescue operations at the Montana, as well as to provide a communications platform for anyone who knew or knew about Walt and wished to contribute personal thoughts and reflections about him or others who were also missing.

Even before the tragedy in Haiti, Walt was a hero to many people around the world, a fact that is clearly evident from reading the hundreds of impassioned prayers and well wishes posted on his Facebook page by people in faraway places whose lives were blessed in one way or another by Walt’s grace, compassion, and goodwill.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that we finally learned Walt’s remains had been found in the rubble of the Hotel Montana.  While saddened beyond words by the finality of this news, I am comforted knowing that Walt’s spirit of adventure and dedication to making this world a better place will live on in the thousands of people that he has inspired, and in the dozens of organizations that he has worked with and supported.

One such organization is Solar Energy International (SEI), a nonprofit group based in Carbondale, Colorado that has trained more people in photovoltaic design and installation than any other group that I know of.   To honor Walt, SEI has just established the Walt Ratterman Scholarship Fund to support people from developing countries to attend SEI workshops. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to Walt and his lifelong commitment to social justice and the provision of sustainable energy access across the globe.

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If you wish to read more about Walt’s legacy and view some of our favorite photographs of him, please check out the tribute that we have posted on the SELF website.

 

copenhagen.jpgOne of the central issues that will be discussed at Copenhagen is the obligation of rich nations to help poor nations by committing "to far deeper emissions cuts than they already have, and to provide them with cash and technology so they can prepare for the worst and develop a clean energy infrastructure for themselves."

In spite of all the uncertainty surrounding COP15, I'm going to Copenhagen as an optimist. I agree with Bill McKibben's point that we need a dramatic breakthrough in Copenhagen, and I believe there are signs that President Obama's behind-the-scenes negotiations just may pay off.

obama_bob.jpgFor nearly 20 years, the mission of our Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) has been to provide solar power and communications to a quarter of the world’s population living in energy poverty.

SELF believes that energy is a human right.

To meet global challenges such as food and water scarcity, climate change and poverty, SELF is working to assign greater priority to the importance of sustainable energy among international development banks, aid agencies, foundations, and philanthropic individuals, who are committed to improving the health, education, and economic prospects of the world's poorest citizens.

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We define energy poverty as a lack of access to clean and efficient energy systems. Energy poverty exacts its toll on the health, education, food and livelihoods of the world’s poorest people. Energy is a foundation, a prime condition, a prerequisite to a healthy living and a competitive economy, without which:

  • Health Clinics go without lighting and medical equipment and without necessary refrigeration to preserve vaccines and other vital medicines for yellow fever, polio, tetanus, whooping cough, and hepatitis A and B.
  • Schools go without dependable lighting to facilitate education and ensure the well-being of their students.
  • Community knowledge is compromised when connectivity by radio and telephone is not possible.
  • Agricultural production is hindered by lack of irrigation systems, which leads to the loss of precious day-light hours to traditional fuel-gathering, severely impeding economic progress.
  • Homes are lit with kerosene lamps, which give dim and wavering light, emit cancer-causing smoke, and cause thousands of devastating house fires every year. In contrast, light produced by solar power is carbon free clean, steady, bright, and safe.
  • Drinking water is dangerously contaminated with disease-carrying waste and agricultural runoff.
  • Micro-Enterprise is severely hampered, as nightfall comes at about 6:30 p.m. year-round, effectively ending the productive work day without access to electric light.
  • Urban Migration causes explosive growth of cities in developing nations, straining the natural environment and overwhelming cities' social service systems.
  • The lack of irrigation leads to unsustainable farming practices.
The list goes on and on.  This is the impact of energy poverty, the root cause of so much suffering in the world.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Kalalé District of Benin in West Africa - a poor, dry region in the northern part of the country with approximately 100,000 people - none of whom have access to the electric grid. The economy, as in most rural districts, is mainly based on agriculture with more than 95% of the population involved with farming. Despite its great potential, crop production in Kalalé remains weak and easily influenced by natural conditions. There is precious little rainfall during the six-month dry season that runs from November through April each year.

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You can learn about SELF's work in Benin here. This is the whole-village development concept that SELF has been implementing for some time now. We call it our Solar Integrated Development ( SID) Model, and we'd like to scale the process across Africa.

My hope for Copenhagen is that we might just succeed in making the fight against energy poverty a global priority.

I believe SELF has created the right model for sustainable development across much of rural Africa, China, and India. It's time we used solar energy to reap a digital dividend (as C.K. Prahalad calls it) for the poor. Fighting energy poverty is, in my mind, a cleantech opportunity. Sustainability and innovation go hand in hand.

I'm confident we will see a new "coalition of the willing" emerge in Copenhagen  - this time to save the Earth.  The consequences of inaction are too serious to ignore.

My next blog post will be from Copenhagen.  Stay tuned.


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. 

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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.

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