Solar energy lights up lives of remote villagers

Posted on February 25, 2015 by Ryan Brown | 0 Comments

Some 200 villagers from two longhouses in the interior of Batang Ai are enjoying 24-hour power supply from solar panels as a result of Sarawak Energy’s (SEB) quest for sustainable power generation.

Households at Rh Kino and Rh Manggat are now equipped with a Solar Home System (SHS) set, comprising eight ceiling lights and four switch socket outlets to power basic electrical appliances.

Rh Kino and Rh Manggat are not connected to the grid due to their remoteness. They can only be accessed by longboat over the Batang Ai reservoir – 45 minutes to Rh Manggat and one hour 30 minutes to Rh Kino.

“This initiative complements the government’s rural electrification program to provide electricity to all rural households by 2020. The SHS provides a viable interim measure until a more permanent solution can be implemented.

“It shows how committed we are in making sure every household has a continuous supply of electricity,” SEB general manager for research and development Dr Chen Shiun said in a press statement yesterday.

He sees solar energy as the best alternative power source for this community for now as connecting both longhouses to the grid will take years, and may not be viable due to the small population.

SEB worked closely with the villagers in developing the initiative, starting with a series of stakeholder dialogues to determine project feasibility before implementation began in November last year.

Once the go-ahead was given, the villagers helped Sarawak Energy’s R&D team to ensure implementation ran smoothly.

With both longhouses only accessible by boat, the villagers engaged in a gotong-royong to transport the equipment from Batang Ai jetty.

After rigorous testing of the solar sets, the villagers were briefed on how to operate and maintain them while SEB provide technical support to the longhouses.

Although the installed solar capacity doesn't cater for appliances requiring higher power like refrigerators and washing machines, having a constant supply is already making a difference.

Tuai Rumah Manggat Meringai said villagers can now switch on their lights and use electrical appliances anytime of the day. Prior to this, each family had a generator set for which they spend about RM80 per month on diesel while those with a petrol generator set spend more than RM100 per month.

“When we use generators, lights are switched on from 6.30pm to 10pm only. On festive occasions like Gawai Dayak and weddings, the generator set will run until midnight or the early hours of the morning. We also provide home-stay to tourists so a continuous supply helps a lot,” explained the 58-year-old farmer.

At Rh Kino, William Indap, 46, said the longhouse used to have a 15 kilowatt diesel generator running from 7pm to 10pm, four times a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

“Now with the solar system, the children can watch television during the day and there is no need to use torch light in the early morning or late at night. It has made life convenient for us!” said the father of two who is also a member of the village security and development committee.

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Posted in Batang Ai, Remote Solar Power, Solar Energy, Solar Power Generator, Solar Power Village



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