USAID clean energy project to aid hinterland solar energy initiatives

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with Arizona State University and the Guyana Energy Agency on Wednesday hosted a Clean Energy Workshop aimed at helping solar energy initiatives in hinterland areas.

The workshop, titled ‘Sustainable PV investments in the Developing World,’ was designed to discuss Guyana’s renewable energy infrastructure with a particular focus on long-term technical, financial, institutional and socio-economic sustainability of solar Photo Voltaic (PV) technologies, in particular, for health facilities in rural “off the grid areas,” the Government Information Agency (GINA) said.

United States Ambassador to Guyana Brent Hardt said Guyana is blessed with abundant renewable energy resources which affords it an array of opportunities to explore alternative forms of energy production. “Its Low Carbon Development Strategy advocates renewable energy as a key energy source, to this end, government has been promoting the dissemination of solar panels throughout the interior,” he said.

Hardt pointed out that USAID has partnered with the Ministry of Health and other local associates to develop health facilities across the country which are critical to providing HIV/AIDS care and prevention activities which require stable, high-quality power for the operation of sensitive laboratory equipment and the maintenance of critical refrigeration needs. Reliable and affordable power poses a challenge to many health facilities, especially in remote rural areas.

“To address this challenge, USAID has created a new initiative – the Improving Health Facility Infrastructure project – aimed at expanding solar energy services for health facilities in Guyana… a major component of this initiative is the Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) activity, implemented under the leadership of Arizona State University,” Hardt said. The ambassador added that the programme aims to boost the use of solar energy infrastructure and investments by increasing awareness, knowledge and capacity of local stakeholders, primarily for decentralised clean (solar) energy technologies.

According to GINA, the Hinterland Electrification Programme entails the procurement of 11,000 home systems for 184 villages, which will provide power for lighting, and the operation of small household appliances such as sewing machines and radios. Several thousands of the 65-watt panels have already been distributed in Region Nine villages.

GINA said this programme complements the US$28.2M Unserved Areas Electrification Programme, which saw 1,750 hinterland homes being illuminated via solar power from 2002 to 2010.

Also speaking at the opening of the workshop, Delia Saenz, Vice Provost for International Education and Institutional Inclusion of the Arizona State University, said that the university’s work in collaboration with USIAD, aims to reduce failure in sustainability.

“We are well aware that PV systems, particularly in rural areas, can prematurely become inoperative after only 3 to 5 years, even though the life cycle capacity can reach 20 years. Our task, then, is to enable reliable, cost-effective operation of PV systems over their design lifetime,” she said.

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