Rebuilding with sun: A story of hope, innovation, and positivity for Nepal
Doing good — in an environmentally responsible way. Win-win.
Even before the deadly earthquake hit Nepal on April 24, 2015, almost 24% of its citizens lived without electricity.
The World Bank estimates that 23.7% of Nepal's population did not have access to electricity as of 2010. Following the 8.8-magnitude earthquake — and 120+ subsequent aftershocks, some measuring as high as 7.3 — consistent electricity become an even bigger problem for the nearly 28 million people who live in Nepal.
Nepal's major cities and many outlying areas now have even less access to consistent electricity.
This NASA image shows how much electricity access has changed since the earthquake. The areas that are orange have less electricity now than they did before the earthquake.
To help restore electricity to Nepalese citizens, an organization called Rebuild With Sun launched an impressive campaign to bring solar energy to Nepal.
The effort began when Gham Power, a company that had already been operating in Nepal for the five years leading up to the earthquake, "began donating solar lights and charging stations to relief workers, and to displaced individuals and families when the earthquake hit," according to Rebuild With Sun's Indiegogo page.
Before the earthquake, Gham Power had installed solar energy at 600 sites, many of which provided important services — a hospital, a shelter for trafficked girls, and a research lab located at the Mount Everest Base camp, for example.
Gham Power began working with other local solar energy companies in Nepal and joined forces with Global Nepali Professional Network to launch Rebuild With Sun with a goal of bringing solar power stations to the areas most affected by the earthquakes.
Solar power has already helped make a difference in the relief efforts.
"People had a fear in the darkness, and they couldn't communicate with the outer world," Bir Bahadur Ghale, a micro hydro specialist and local resident of Barpak (which was at the epicenter of the earthquake) said in an e-mail.
Ghale explains that Gham Power's solar power stations have already helped people coordinate with each other and reduce panic. "First they can call their families and update they are safe. Second, they can listen to the radio programs through their mobile phones, which helps them to stay together and not to panic in the difficult situation."
Life in Nepal is still a long way from returning to normal, but things are slowly getting better.
"People are desperately trying to get back to normal, despite the constant grueling onslaught of aftershocks, Sandeep Giri, the CEO of Gham Power told Upworthy.
Although the initial earthquake happened over a month ago, "[on] May 27th, everyone got an early morning wake up call of four straight-up 4+ magnitude aftershocks within a span of couple of hours, each one a terrifying reminder of the 7.8 magnitude shock that turned our world upside down on April 25th," Giri explained.
Rebuild With Sun is working to solve Nepal's energy deficit in the short term and the long term.
Currently, they're helping with relief efforts, establishing stations that will power heavy appliances for relief and rebuilding work:
"In the near term (within 3-6 months), we will set up 1 to 2 kW solar power stations in rural villages that are not currently served by large relief organizations. These systems power heavier appliances necessary for relief, and rebuilding work (power tools, water pumps, water purifier kits, medical devices, small fridges, etc.), and will remain in place once relief work is over."
And for the future, Rebuild With Sun wants to rebuild Nepal's damaged power system with a green power system that can be used as a model in the wake of other natural disasters:
"Long term, we want to support Nepal in rebuilding with a greener infrastructure. We want to accelerate the deployment of rural microgrids and help create a smart and distributed grid network in Nepal, which should serve as a reference model for disaster response and clean energy deployment."
Pretty cool, huh?
You can help if you're interested.
So far, Rebuild With Sun has raised over $12,000 from individual contributions and over $100,000 from corporate partners SunPower Corporation, Conergy, and SolarCity.
They've launched another fundraising campaign where you can make a donation if you'd like to help.
You can see the requests they've received for help here. At the time this was written, initial requests have been completed for 30 sites, solar power is on its way for 57 sites, and 65 sites are waiting for help.
This is a great example of the hope, innovation, and positivity that can follow a tragedy, and a reminder of all the good there is in the world.