EmPOWERing Education with Solar Energy

Volunteers from across Oregon’s PV industry—Elemental Energy, HDR Engineering, Imagine Energy, IronRidge, Portland State University, and SunPower—recently returned home from Cambodia after volunteering their expertise to install a 26kW off-grid PV system on the Stephen Mazujian Middle School. This project is a part of a global electrification initiative led by local non-profit Twende Solar to empower energy-deficient communities with renewable energy systems. Calling on the solar industry to unite behind this mission and lend their collective skillsets and resources, volunteers are rewarded with the experience of commissioning an off-grid PV system in an international setting, alongside the community. Let’s go solar, together!

Cambodia has one of the lowest electrification rates in SE Asia with an estimated 6.9 million people living without access to electricity. Despite these stark statistics, Cambodia has an impressive sun resource—reports estimate the nation could average 8,100 megawatts of peak generation, yielding roughly 12,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year. In a country where nearly 85% of its population lives in rural areas, a decentralized source of power like solar PV is the perfect solution to providing electricity to all communities.

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Recognizing both the dire need of the community and the tremendous potential for solar, Twende Solar set its sights on Siem Reap, Cambodia. Choosing to partner with the recently constructed Stephen Mazujian Middle School, Twende designed a 26kW off-grid PV system to power the expansion of the school’s academic offerings. Serving some of the poorest communities in Siem Reap, where the student drop-out rate can reach upwards of 60% by middle school, the Stephen Mazujian Middle School stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the youth of Siem Reap.

After ten months of planning and fundraising, fourteen volunteers joined Twende Solar for a week long installation on the Stephen Mazujian Middle School. Weathering near 100-degree days and sudden torrential rain, volunteers truly gave their blood, sweat and tears to ensure the system was complete by the first day of school. Following a rigorous installation, volunteers lent their expertise to teach students, teachers and curious community members about the benefits and function of solar energy. Seeking to inspire students to pursue STEM or renewable energy career paths, Twende developed a PV curriculum for students to continue engaging with the system long after the installation was complete.

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Outfitted with SolarWorld modules, SunModo racking and mounting, Rolls Surrette batteries, and Outback Power equipment, the system is projected to produce over 36,000 kWh of electricity annually. Armed with an abundant supply of clean, reliable energy the Stephen Mazujian Middle School will be able to power all of its current and future electricity needs—including the addition of a high school campus next door! Through an exchange of knowledge with community leaders, Twende Solar hopes this system will encourage the expansion of renewable energy throughout Siem Reap and the country.

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We are incredibly grateful for our project partners and sponsors: Elemental Energy,OutBack Power, Rolls Surrette Battery Company, SolarWorld USA, SunModo, True South Solar, and of course our wonderful volunteers who donated their time, expertise and brawn to emPOWER the youth of Siem Reap!

Stay connected with @TwendeSolar for more photos, volunteer stories and details for the project video premiere! #LetsGoSolar

Jeremy Ross