In traveling to other nations to install solar arrays at no cost to recipients, I strive to partner with residents there. Partnership is, for me, the backbone of fostering sustainable, nurturing alternative energy in remote areas where municipal electric grids either don’t exist or, if they do, often fail.
In preparing for and undertaking each trip, I uphold the following goals: Purchase local supplies to support regional economies; work side-by-side with recipients to ensure they understand electric circuitry; and remain steadfast to support each project should breakdowns occur after installations.
An amazing outcome has resulted from this three-pronged approach: partnership and friendship. In Bangladesh and Zambia, I share a mutual dream with friends and partners who reside there: generating electricity from the sun. Separated though we may be by thousands of miles, we tackle challenges together as they arise. In remote Zambia, for example, a month after we installed a 750-watt solar array on a dormitory at a divinity school with no electricity in a village 18 hours by car from the capital of Lusaka, a torrential rainstorm flooded a shed (photo) which housed our rechargeable batteries, meters, and an inverter used to convert direct current generated by the solar panels to alternating current. Without a functioning inverter, eighteen students who resided in the dorm no longer had light with which to read at night or power to recharge laptops and cell phones.
Through the kindness of a traveler, we shipped a new inverter from the U.S. to Zambia where a reverend who seconds as an outstanding electrician replaced the broken inverter with the new one, and the lights turned on again.
Partnership — a switch best left on.