Plugging in: Renewable energy for remote villages
By Dexter Gauntlet
On a cultural level, people in Portland and the Northwest pride themselves on acting locally and thinking globally.
This is consistent with one of the region’s economic strategies of exporting its clean energy know-how, technology and deployment strategies to other cities, states and overseas. The focus has mostly been on commercial-scale applications — but the region is home to a growing number of individuals, organizations and companies working together to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies as a tool for improving the quality of life in remote villages around the world.
Integrating renewable energy into international development projects is exciting, difficult and time consuming – but that has not reduced the interest from engineers, students, and clean-energy professionals. As someone who has worked at the nexus of clean energy and international development for eight years, I wanted to share three trends that I see in the field and one key piece of advice that should aid your company, organization or job search in this innovative sector:
1. Small-scale renewable energy systems are being deployed everywhere. By small scale, I am referring to village-level systems providing electricity or potable water for a few hundred people in a community. Even some of the most remote villages in Nepal, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Uganda, Philippines, Tanzania and literally over 100 other countries have some sort of renewable-energy activity at the village level. Technologies range from 100-watt solar home systems (enough to power two CFL’s and radio and cell phone charging) to 15-kilowatt micro-hydro systems for small businesses and refrigeration, to 2-kilowatt solar water pumping and even 100-watt small wind systems. Why? The cost has come down for these technologies so considerably that they are more economical than the diesel generators that these renewable, non-polluting sources replace.
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