Solar Village project evolved from a Higher Education Link programme initiated and coordinated by Prof. I M Dharmadasa (IMD) in the 1990s. This was funded by the DFID-UK, managed by the British Council and coordinated by IMD. The link continued for about 8 years, provided mobility between two countries, and completed over 40 senior academic visits. The focus was to start solar energy research in five Sri Lankan universities and promote renewable energy applications in the country. This work expanded to South Asia region (SAREP-South Asia Renewable Energy Programme) and IMD designed “Solar Village” project to empower needy communities, for their sustainable development and reduction of poverty.
APSL Solar Village concept developed by one of the APSL past Presidents, Prof. I. M. Dharmadasa, focuses on the rural communities who are off the national grid or cannot afford commercially available alternatives, and trapped in poverty due to various reasons. In such a typical community, lighting comes from kerosene lamps and cooking is done with firewood. The project is developed so that rural communities will learn to help themselves in meeting their energy needs.
The design of the project ensures that credible leaders in the community (led by the educationists) will create the Centres for Application of Renewable Energy Sources (CARES), which will enable target householders to gain access to energy services at an affordable price. The project also aims to begin with a small number of households and to grow the number with their own contributions. A CARES scholarship programme for village children will be established from the growing revolving fund to support the development of people in the area. In addition, various development projects and activities to improve the environment depending on the geography, climate and the livelihood of people will be introduced.
The project can be modified according to the requirements of the community and the promoters will act as advisors to the project. One important aspect that is built into the project is regular monitoring, evaluation and wide publicity for encouraging it’s replication.
This is a project to assist people to help themselves and to catalyse the eradication of poverty through rural economic development. Currently, these marginalised rural households are condemned to a perpetuation of their poverty. Not having access to basic lighting, information, and entertainment denies them opportunities. Poor lighting makes it difficult for children to study at night, the effects of kerosene fumes and the kerosene lamp fire risks are detrimental for their health and safety, and overall the quality of life is very bleak.
Key achievements so far
It was hard to raise funds for such projects and IMD personally funded the pilot solar village in 2008. It was a different learning path in taking new technologies from labs to the society. The technology/society interface has numerous issues to solve, and IMD took quality time to guide the community, monitor, and disseminate outcomes and impacts. By seen the outstanding results from the project, IMD gave a talk on this project in London, and convinced APSL-UK and Helasarana charities to jointly complete the second Solar Village in ~2016. A generous Sri Lankan donor came to establish the third solar village in Pulmudai, and APSL sponsored the fourth solar village in Puthier Nagar. Helasarana has selected to support the fifth Solar Village in Monaragala area to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
This is a very active project expanding rapidly after seen its outcomes and impacts.
|Prof. I.M. Dharmadasa, Mr. Leslie Dep, Mr. Gihantha Jayasinghe, and several ex-co members.
Solar Village project is rapidly expanding, and IMD and his team is now working to raise funds to expand the project within Sri Lanka and introduce this project to other developing countries like Bangladesh, India and Nigeria.
Prof. I. M. Dharmadasa – Dharme@shu.ac.uk
The first stage of a large solar village project at Nochchiya village-cluster situated in the Kurunegala district, Sri Lanka, was established in January 2017, with the installation of two solar power systems, each funded by UK registered charities – The Association of Professional Sri Lankans in the UK (APSL) and Hela Sarana.
Dharme’s Blog : https://dharmesblog.wordpress.com/