SELF established the first solar electric village in the Solomon Islands in early 1997. On the Island of Guadalcanal, 50 families in the village of Sukiki received solar home systems (SHS) in relation to the project spearheaded by SELF and the Guadalcanal Rural Electrification Agency (GREA).
The Solomon Islands is the third largest archipelago in the South Pacific, located to the east of Papua New Guinea. The islands are sparsely populated, with 400,000 people on 300 islands. Aside from the capital city of Honiara, which receives its electricity from a diesel-powered grid, very few of the towns have access to reliable electricity. At the time, 90% of Solomon Islanders lived in rural areas that were heavily reliant upon kerosene as their main source of in-home lighting.
In early 1997, SELF undertook the electrification of Sukiki, a small village located on the southeastern coast of Guadalcanal. The project was sponsored by the Council of State Governments and the US Asia Environmental Partnership, with additional support from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Maryland Energy Administration. Each solar home consisted of a 50Wp Solarex module, a Morningstar charge controller, a battery, and 3 compact florescent lights. The SHS provide enough electricity for several hours of lighting as well as radio.
Installment credit for the purchase of SHS was made available through a revolving credit fund that was managed by GREA. Participants were required to pay a $50 down payment, followed by monthly installments of $15 over the next 4 years. The money repaid to the credit fund was then used to provide financing to additional families.
While the project in Sukiki was considered a success, it presented a host of operational challenges. Transportation to Sukiki was only possible by outboard canoe, which required skillful navigation through coral reefs. Additionally, all wiring and mounting equipment for the project had to be imported to Honiara, and then transported by canoe to Sukiki. Once the equipment arrived, the SHS were easily installed under the supervision of SELF Technical Manager, Marlene Brown.
At a ceremony commemorating the project, the Premier of Guadalcanal Province declared Sukiki to be the first solar-electric village in the Solomon Islands, and expressed hope that it could be replicated throughout the Solomon Islands. GREA has subsequently received requests for SHS from other villages in the Solomons. Publicity generated by the project, including a radio program broadcast after the opening ceremony, helped garner support for the expansion of rural solar electrification. Based on its experience in Sukiki, GREA installed an additional 50 SHS in the neighboring village of Makarua.
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Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in more than 25 countries and pioneered unique applications of solar power such as for drip irrigation in Benin, health care in Haiti, telemedicine in the Amazon rain forest, online learning in South Africa and microenterprise development in Nigeria.
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