In 1994, SELF brought electricity to the village of Pulimarang in collaboration with the Centre for Renewable Energy (CRE) in Kathmandu, a nonprofit organization working to promote decentralized energy options for rural electrification in Nepal. With support from the Moriah Fund, solar home systems (SHS) were installed in 65 homes and a community center.
Although the mountains of Nepal are endowed with great hydroelectric potential, many of the villages located at lower elevations did not have the local hydro resources available to them. Nepal’s national electricity grid was connected to larger towns and villages near Kathmandu, yet many rural villages did not have access to the national grid, as line extensions through the high, rugged mountains were prohibitively expensive. At the time of this project, only 11% of Nepal’s population of 20 million people had access to electricity. The vast remainder was dependent upon kerosene and dry-cell batteries for night time lighting, and had no access to the television or radio.
Each of the SHS in Pulimarang consisted of a Siemens Pro Charger 35-watt panel, a 70 amp-hour battery, and a charge controller. The systems powered three 9-watt fluorescent lights, as well as a television or radio. The SHS were initially financed by SELF, but recipient families were expected to pay monthly installments over a three year period that were roughly equivalent to the monthly cost spent on dry cell batteries and kerosene used for night time illumination of their homes. As the locally managed revolving fund became replenished, 18 additional systems were financed by the local solar committee.
In addition to the installation of SHS within the community, a community center within Pulimarang was also electrified with the use of solar PV. This has allowed members of the village to congregate in the evenings in an illuminated space, as well as the initiation of a weaving program, “Under the Solar Lights” where women produce hand crafted woven goods to sell at markets.
After the conclusion of the project, Nepal’s Prime Minister traveled to the village for an inauguration ceremony. He was received by cheering and enthusiastic crowds and promised future support for rural electrification, which was the only hope for bringing electricity to the majority of Nepal’s rural population. Based upon the success of the Pulimarang pilot project, the Nepalese government began a program to subsidize SHS throughout the country.
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