Solomon Islands: History
In 1997, SELF completed a 50-house project in Sukiki on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, in association with the Guadalcanal Rural Electrification Agency (GREA). The following year, an additional 50 homes in the neighboring village of Makaruka were equipped with solar home systems.
SELF established the first solar-electric village in the Solomon Islands in early 1997. The 50-house Sukiki Village Power Project was undertaken in partnership with the Guadalcanal Rural Electrification Agency (GREA), a non-governmental organization based in Honiara which was established as the local partner for the project. 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.
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 living on three hundred 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 electricity. Ninety percent of Solomon Islanders live in rural areas, and still rely on kerosene as a source of home lighting.
SELF undertook the electrification of Sukiki, a small village located on the southeast coast of Guadalcanal. A photovoltaic training course led by Johnny Weiss of Solar Energy International (SEI), of Carbondale, Colorado, was carried out to teach the fundamentals of PV design prior to installation of the solar home systems. Village technicians as well as other students from the College of Higher Education, the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Minerals, and the Solomons Islands Electricity Authority (SIEA) were trained in PV design, installation, and maintenance in order to provide on-going technical support to the systems.
Each solar home system consists of a 50Wp Solarex module, a Morningstar charge controller, a battery, and three compact fluorescent 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 managed by GREA. Participants pay a $50 downpayment, followed by monthly installments of US$15.00 over four years. Money repaid to the credit fund will be used to provide financing for additional families.
The project in Sukiki presented numerous challenges. Transportation to Sukiki was only possible by outboard canoe, and required skillful navigation through coral reefs. All wiring and mounting equipment for the project had to be imported to Honiara, and transported by boat to Sukiki. Once all the equipment arrived, the SHS were easily installed under the supervision of SELF Technical Manager Marlene Brown.
Thanks to the project, fifty families in Sukiki now enjoy the benefits of electric lighting. Household incomes will rise as productive activities extend into the evening hours. Children will have more time to read and study. No longer will the people of Sukiki have to breathe in smoky kerosene fumes on a daily basis, nor will they be vulnerable to injuries or deaths caused by kerosene-related accidents. 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 in many other villages throughout the Solomons.
GREA has subsequently received many requests for SHS from other villages in the Solomons. Publicity generated by the project, including a radio program broadcast for five consecutive days after the opening ceremony, helped to garner support for the expansion of solar rural electrification. Based on its experience in Sukiki, GREA hopes to develop a larger-scale SHS program in the Solomon Islands.