Letter from a solar enthusiast and policy advocate abroad
By Mark Pengilly
I have been in India and Bhutan for the last three weeks,
trekking along the border between India and Nepal and, more recently, here in Bhutan. We have seen distributed solar in the most remote places imaginable. In villages two days' walk from any road, where everything has to be carried in by horseback or humanback, houses often have a solar panel, or sometimes two. Remote yakherders' houses sometimes had PV panels. We visited a primary school with six students, some of whom walk an hour a day each way to school, which had a 12-volt system powered by a single PV panel. I haven't seen a single incandescent bulb; CFLs are the rule. Those yakherders' panels probably make it possible for students to do their homework at night.
Along the Nepali-Indian border there were Indian army checkpoints every so often. They're a little jumpy about China and photos were forbidden, but every single outpost had perimeter lighting powered by PV panels. I'll share some permitted photos with you later.
People here get it. They can see the receding glaciers from their villages. They see the effects of climate change in landslides that wash out roads and in recent flooding. There are a few electric cars in Thimphu, Bhutan's capital.
Two school girls on their way home from school approached us yesterday and asked, "Where is your village?" I made the shape of a globe and showed them that Bhutan was here and that my village, Portland, was on the other side of the world. "OHHHHHHH," they said, clearly impressed.
So I will be thinking of you in Portland on Saturday [at Solar Oregon's Annual Meeting on November 17th] and will look forward to working toward making Oregon the most dynamic solar frontier possible.
We had sun every day of our trek here. We're going to India tomorrow and I keep thinking about the potential for a micro-loan program to promote community solar in developing countries. But first, the Oregon legislature.
Thank you all for your energy and dedication to solar.