Solar the key to bringing electricity to remote Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea has the perfect climate for solar, and is the key to achieving an ambitious government plan to bring electricity to the 70 per cent of Papua New Guineans who currently don’t have access by 2030, according to Rick Hooper, Chief Executive Officer of Sydney-based solar company, Barefoot Power.

Solar5a

Lighting up remote Papua New Guinea.

Barefoot Power assists people in developing countries with access to affordable renewable energy–with the focus firstly on providing lighting.

It has been operating in Kenya, the Philippines, rural India and Uganda since 2008, although Papua New Guinea was its test bed 11 years ago.

‘We used PNG in the early days because of its climate and conditions, and it proved a good test bed because our products are now very reliable.

‘Because of the government policy to give access to electricity to 85 per cent of the population by 2030… the only way the government will get that growth in electrification is by using small-scale solar.’

‘What you need is available sunlight hours. PNG being close to the equator, you get on average about 10 to 11 hours of sunlight a day and that means you’ve got effective sunlight of about eight hours.

‘Solar systems are designed around having six hours of solar sun per day so in PNG you’re able to recharge your system quite effectively because you have such long sunlight hours.’

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Solar kits

Barefoot Power's Rick Hooper

Barefoot Power’s Rick Hooper

Barefoot Power exclusive PNG agent, Solar Solutions PNG, began operations over two years ago.

‘All our products are sold in kit form, and we’re seeing growing interest in the larger kits, the household kits, which give you four lights and phone charger capability, plus the ability to run a 12-volt fan, TV or radio,’ says Managing Director, Jon Pittar.

‘The market here is a little more sophisticated than some of the other starter markets in Africa, as we are selling many more of the larger kits than the single lights, which can only light one room in a house. We are also selling security lights, street lights, vaccine fridges and solar hot water systems.

‘In the villages, our customers are families who don’t have access to the grid.

‘A 30-watt kit consists of a solar panel using 12-volt battery which will run 4 lights for a family home, which usually consists of two bedrooms and a lounge room and the lights we sell them allow them to light those up quickly. They have the option of putting one light underneath the house or on the outside, because people like sitting and chatting on the veranda.

‘The uptake on radio and TV options is growing quite rapidly, but not as fast as we’re seeing in Africa. We do expect that to change as the TV stations widen their transmission range.’

Barefoot Power's solar fridge

Barefoot Power’s solar fridge

Most sales take place in Port Moresby and Lae, through distributors such as Hardware Haus, Titan Distributors, Anitua Hardware and Datec, says Pittar, although some of distributors have outlets throughout the country.

‘We are always looking for local businesses in the outer regions, who have the ability and resources to become a local distributor,’ he says.

‘People who are working are also buying systems and sending them back to their village and families.

‘We’ve also got various electorates in PNG looking at the quality solar option for lighting up the schools, health centres or for Rural Electrification Projects, as it is the cheapest option.

Infancy

‘Solar has only scratched the surface in PNG. Because of the government policy to give access to electricity to 85 per cent of the population by 2030 (it is currently only 13 percent), we see PNG as a key market, not only now but in the future.

‘Solar is going to be integral. The only way the government will get that growth in electrification is by using small-scale solar.

‘What you need to do is get people light first, so they educate themselves, operate small businesses, develop a mini economy and then they can afford to trade up and pay for higher power options.

‘We started off just selling lighting, but about three years we moved across to providing lifestyle electronics … So we have the fridge, the TV, a fan, radio and a charging system for phones. On the drawing board are hair dryers, clothing irons, and an air-conditioning system.’

‘It’s very feasible to achieve that goal,’ says Pittar, ‘but the only way you’ll get power into the remote areas is through small discrete, home-based systems.’

Expanding range

Solar Solution's Jon Pittar

Solar Solution’s Jon Pittar

With its own in-house designer, Barefoot Power is expanding its range of solar-based products.

‘We started off just selling lighting, but about three years we moved across to providing lifestyle electronics,’ says Hooper, ‘because all populations across the world have the aspiration to have more and more convenience in the home.

‘So we have the fridge, the TV, a fan, radio and a charging system for phones. On the drawing board are hair dryers, clothing irons, and an air-conditioning system.

‘We’ve got two fridges,’ Pittar says. ‘One is a barefoot fridge, 55 litres, which is more for household usage but can store medicines.’

By the end of 2015, he says, the company will have a product to charge laptops.

Other ambitions include supplying power back to the grid, particularly in Port Moresby and Lae.

 

Comments

  1. How do I get myself a barefoot solar kit right here in Papua New Guinea.

  2. Wilson Mondo says:

    This is for a solar home system. How about for a decentralized system?

  3. jennifer Abaijah says:

    Barefoot solar kit, Way to go. Bought mine 9months ago and no problems since. Am interestered in solar iron/fan and fridge.

  4. Local, safe, reliable rural wind-turbines 3 to 10 kW can be a great support to the PV in many areas. Could be an additional business in PNG.

  5. Augustine Inapi says:

    Very very interesting. It is another way to empower rural economy.

  6. Susan jarman says:

    Where can I purchase a small solar kit needed for a family in panapompom island. There is a tourist boat going there in dec from Brooke, Australia and I am just not sure where to start, what to get them, or what they need or where to buy. Any advice appreciated. The Louisiades archipelago are so remote and this is a slim chance. Thank you susan

    • Samuel Raj says:

      There is a good solar maker in JKT and I believe they might have some distributor for solar lighting application near you. ww.sundaya.com the company I have seen these solar lamps run for more than 5 years.

  7. Dr Eremas Tade says:

    I am in support of solar power for rural areas as an alternative source of electrification for the masses. The beauty about it is that it is environmentally friendly and does not affect the climate very much, no green house gases.

  8. Michael Pasi says:

    Solar power as alternative source to light up rural PNG is the way foward. Our community in collaboration with the government should develope or embrace technology that is cost effective and environmentally friendly sources. I wish Solar Solution reach out to all provinces and conduction awareness or get to the local authorities and suggest importance of harnessing the richly available solar energy.

  9. Tai Simeon says:

    Solar Power is the solution for the rural people which is 80% of the PNG population

  10. John B Susuve says:

    Solar power is the way to go in PNG because most of our remote village live off- grid areas where there is lack of power source. Therefore, the PNG Government should team up with reputable supplier/manufacturers to supply solar systems in PNG.

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