Your neighbours need some help to go solar

If you have never travelled to a developing country and witnessed how solar can really change lives, you should.

I’ve seen people’ lives profoundly changed over and over again with solar energy; eye disease from kerosene lighting is a big problem and burns and fires from lanterns and candles are horrendous. I’ve seen micro businesses spring up where they couldn’t without power changing the social fabric of communities for the better.

By chance I had a call from a former installer the other week who reminded me that I had helped some nuns from the Sisters of the Good Samaritan with solar power in Kiribati; around 15 years ago. The system they had was several years old and had some problems and although many challenges existed, the system continues to operate and is pretty much their only form of power. It remains in good shape thanks to the persistence of the Sisters and a quietly spoken and diligent Australian solar installer. I was reminded that although the nuns I was dealing with are sadly long past (rest in peace), their incredible dedication to testing the batteries, recording readings and maintaining the system has been passed on and continues to this day; more than 20 years after they first got electricity.

I also got a fantastic video from Phil at Living Power recently highlighting his work in Uganda helping to power chicken farms and orphanages which you can see below. Phil and his sponsors are to be commended for what I’m sure was a huge labour of love and a hugely rewarding experience at the same time.

Such is the case for solar in thousands of locations around the world.

I learned today that the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), who have an esteemed history of helping developing countries using solar power need our support on their latest project.

An ambitious plan by the ATA to create a sustainable solar industry in East Timor has received an enormous boost with the initiative being named a finalist in the Google Australia Impact Challenge; no mean feat.

The Solar for Timor plan aims to install 2000 solar lighting systems and train 75 village-based installers in the next two years, delivering an 60kW of low-emission solar energy.

It is estimated that at least 20% of all homes in East Timor – about 40,000 – will never be connected to the electricity grid. Many people are forced to use polluting and unhealthy kerosene lamps for lighting.

The Google Impact Challenge rewards innovative not-for-profit initiatives that use technology to change lives, with the public asked to vote for their favourite. The four winning entrants will be announced on October 14 and receive grants of $ 500,000.

You know what to do – vote for the ATA here.

Post expires at 3:45pm on Friday October 2nd, 2015

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