Solar Power System Rental Model Brings Clean Power to Lao Villages

Lao villagers erecting a solar panel photo

photo © Cathy Williams/IRIN

The concept of a company renting the homeowner solar panels and providing all the maintenance for the system is not new in the United States. Such a model allows for the installation of solar power with little in the way of up-front costs and little risk for the individual.

Sunlabob Rural Energy Rents Out Solar PV Systems
Such a model is now being employed with success in Laos to bring a variety of solar products to a country where 74% of the population lives on less than $2 per day, and only 48% are connected to the electric grid. The Lao firm Sunlabob Rural Energy provides two different ways for rural people to access solar power where grid access is nonexistent and unlikely to be built in the future.
Solar-Powered Lanterns
The first is through solar-powered lanterns that are rented out at rates that are competitive with the cost of the kerosene that previously powered their lanterns. When the lantern requires charging after 15 hours of use, it is returned to a central collection and charging facility.

Solar PV Systems
The second is similar to programs here in the United States: Sunlabob or one of its franchises rents out solar photovoltaic systems to village committees, which then sub-leases the systems to homeowners. A local person is trained to perform basic servicing, with Sunlabob providing additional technical support. All maintenance and installation costs are included in the price the village committee pays. If the system breaks down, all rental costs are suspended until a technician can repair the system.

So far, 500 solar lanterns and 1,800 solar PV systems have been rented out to 73 villages. The entire program relies entirely on rental costs to cover expenses, no outside subsidies are needed. In those areas of the world without reliable access to an electric grid, or where no grid is likely ever to be built, such a decentralized approach can bring the benefits of clean electric power to regions which would otherwise go without.

More on the Sunlabob solar rental program at :: IRIN Asia.

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