We know solar can help homeowners save money on their electric bills, but solar also has the power to bring electricity in places where electric service is hard to come by. This is particularly true in less economically developed countries where the electric grid is either unreliable or non-existent. This forces communities to either use expensive fuel generation or go without electricity.
A team of five volunteers, including Ohio-based installer Gary Easton of ARP-Solar, recently spent a week in the Dominican Republic installing a 69-panel system on a school in Punta Cana. The school complex can serve up to nearly 2,000 students and provides housing for about 100 teachers. The panels are connected to a bank of 48 batteries that store the electricity generated by the system and ensure the school has 24-hour access to power.
“They had a system that was powering the school,” Easton said. “But it had been installed in a place where obstacles were obstructing it.” This meant they’d often have to shut the system down because its voltage production was too low to store. They were without a generator, leaving them no way to charge the battery to maintain a constant stream of power.
Easton worked through an organization called Sonlight Power. The organization has helped install solar systems in Africa and Latin America.
While these donations provide vital electric service, off-grid systems like the one Easton helped install need someone to help maintain them after the installers leave. “One way to improve the program is if we had a group of local people who could be trained to install the systems themselves,” Easton said. “I’d like to be a part of that.”