Home solar power offers affordable, safe electricity in Cambodia

In the developed world, renewable energy technologies have to compete with existing infrastructure based on fossil fuels or nuclear power. In the developing world, however, power grids and centralized power stations are often in poor shape or non-existent, so technologies like solar and wind play on a much more level playing field. Cambodia’s grid was relatively primitive from the start, and decades of warfare have degraded it even further; as a result, over 11 million people have no access to it.

In this kind of setting, solar power often works as a safe, affordable means of providing the most basic electric “luxury”: lighting. Traditionally, rural Cambodians use diesel lamps; more affluent residents own a car battery for an electricity source… but, of course, it has to be charged on diesel generators. Not only are such options subject to fluctuating fuel prices, but children frequently burn themselves on the lamps. Solar lamps can provide a safer lighting option, and some wealthier Cambodians are even finding that installing a small home solar system is within their means.

These options provide people with cost savings, and even some entrepreneurial opportunities. A solar lamp, for instance, costs about $25; fuel for diesel lamps runs about $30 a month. Business-minded Cambodians and international social entrepreneurs have developed micro-finance programs for lamps and solar systems; in one case, a solar company offers lamp rental at a price comparable to fueling kerosene lamps.

Another great example of how “leapfrogging” traditional development isn’t just good for the environment, but also for economic empowerment for an impoverished population. Know more about solar development in Cambodia, or other developing nations? Share your knowledge with us…

via Renewable Energy World


Image: Floating church with solar panels in Angkor, Cambodia Credit: jurvetson at Flickr under a Creative Commons license