Solar power is the perfect fit for developing nations across the globe. Solar offers free, sustainable energy that won’t harm local communities in the way fossil fuels often do. What’s more, cheap and reliable energy is often a boon for local economies – letting people work smarter and more efficiently. But these rural, off-grid communities rarely have the resources or ability to install and maintain solar PV systems.
This is where the innovators, entrepreneurs and energy pioneers come in. By using their knowledge as solar installers and providers, a number of companies are spreading the benefits of solar across the globe.
Small solar devices are a great entry point for disadvantaged communities, as they provide power for specific purposes without requiring costly installations. For example, the Eliodomestico Solar Still can convert up to 5 liters of seawater a day into potable drinking water using nothing but solar power. Finding clean drinking water is a problem for nearly a billion people, which means that solar stills can potentially impact millions of lives.
Other firms like Fenix International provide solar products that simply provide power, like their ReadyPay Solar Power system. Fenix’s ready-to-install rooftop solar panels can be upgraded to provide more and more power depending on users’ needs. Even a small panel that can only charge a cell phone can go a long way in helping a local community stay connected and safe.
Spreading and Installing
While solar products offer a slew of functionality that can improve lives, they are rarely produced or manufactured in the countries where they’re needed most. That’s where organizations and companies with an eye for charity step in.
One such firm, GoSolar International, uses the sale of solar PV systems in Utah to fund loans for solar product distribution in Uganda. Calling their program Give Solar, the company provides solar lamps that replace harmful kerosene lamps often used by school children. To date, Go Solar’s products have reached over 5,000 families in sub-Saharan Africa.
Similarly, aforementioned Fenix International provides financing for their rooftop solar panels, allowing rural families to repay the loan over 18-30 months, ultimately taking ownership of the system. This loan program allows Fenix to provide solar units to families and communities that would otherwise be unable to afford any kind of power.
Training and Empowering
Introducing solar power to a region is just the beginning. While solar panels can start providing power right away and can usually run for decades, users are still reliant on the installers in case of any issues with a unit. Solar systems need local installers to continue to provide maintenance and support for previously installed panels and units – and those installers need training.
One of the premier organizations certifying solar installers, The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), is expanding their PV Associate credential to international applicants. Previously this credential was open only to installers in the United States and Canada.
HeatSpring is offering a sponsorship opportunity or the first 5 international NABCEP PV Associate Applicants. Offering training through its Solar PV Installer Boot Camp and paying the candidate’s exam fee – and this is just the beginning. This type of focused philanthropy empowers local residents to support, maintain, and even spread solar to their own communities.
Helping at Home
Solar power isn’t just attractive to rural communities abroad, but also right here in the U.S. For families that live far from power grids, solar power can be a godsend. The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative was rolled out recently with the goal of increasing solar adoption nationwide and has enjoyed great success so far.
Even better, the DOE’s newest addition to SunShot is its PV System Toolkit, which aims to expand solar to rural homes without access to an electric grid. The new program has expanded solar to hundreds of farms, homes, and co-ops across the country, while providing education to thousands more.
Saving the World One Solar Panel at a Time
While solar power is not a panacea for the world’s ails, it’s certainly a start. Solar power’s popularity and success in rural, off-grid communities around the globe proves that it’s a useful and beneficial technology that should be accessible to everyone.