SELF has completed installation of a 12.5 kW solar micro-grid in Sabana Crespo, a traditional village in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern Colombia with a population of 300,000. It is one of seven villages assessed by SELF with the active support of the Colombian government. This micro-grid serves as a unique, sustainable model to power shared facilities in similar indigenous villages throughout Colombia.
The village’s Kogi and Arhuaco tribes previously resisted exposure to the wider world, but they have come to believe that solar power complements their spiritual connection with nature and need to protect it. As such, the villagers actively participated in the system’s design phase by carefully defining their priorities for power.
In June of 2015, SELF and APROTEC, an expert Colombian renewable energy organization, installed the solar micro-grid to connect to the village’s coffee warehouse, health clinic, medical staff housing and three children’s recuperation buildings.
In addition, SELF also installed seven solar refrigeration systems in the indigenous villages of Nabusimake, Gunchukwa, Juerwa and Sabana Crespo. This was done through a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Grand Challenges Exploration award, coupled with donations through SELF. SELF installed six solar direct drive (SDD) battery-free vaccine refrigerators and one SDD water-pack freezer—the first to be installed anywhere in the world.
The ability to expand SELF’s work into South America is a positive step towards implementing our Whole Village Development Model across the globe. By piloting our solar for health care projects in Sabana Crespo, we are providing essential services to a community that has historically eschewed the assistance of outsiders.
SELF is pioneering new approaches to reduce battery replacement cost burdens as well as other ways to sustain long-term solar power system operation. We are profoundly grateful to USAID, the Launders Charitable Trust, the Colombia Clean Energy Project, APROTEC, Eopply Solar, AEE Solar/SnapNRack, OutBack Power, Inc., Sure Chill, Tom Anderson, SunPower, and the Greenwich Country Day School for support of this project.