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Solar Currents (As originally published in The Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today Newspaper, Nov 2012)

Read Original Newspaper Article PDF here

The term “thriller” is typically reserved for the description of a murder mystery or spy novel. I recently read a “thriller” that was neither. The book tells the story about the challenges and development of a social business which has completely changed the fabric of a third world nation.
For any entrepreneur, business major, sociologist, or those with interest in renewable energy, Green Energy for a Billion Poor by Nancy Wimmer should be required reading.

The nation of Bangladesh is a secular democracy with an agrarian economy and a flood prone land. Grameen Shakti is a private venture rural solar installation business there. Detractors believed the challenges of selling solar to a very poor society were insurmountable. However, in ten years, 500,000 solar systems were sold by the profitable business proving the detractors wrong.

With less than half the population and 1/6th the average annual income, Bangladesh now has more solar systems than the United States does. The average solar system in Bangladesh is 1/100th the size of an American solar home system.

What is the most thrilling to me is I learned that virtually all the business principles surrounding the sales of a solar system and its advantages are inherently the same worldwide, no matter the differences in societies. Initial cost, financing structure, and fi nancial benefi ts “drive the sale.”

Once the Bangladeshi consumers became educated to the technology of solar energy, the social and financial advantages of solar system ownership became readily evident to them. A single 25 or 50-watt solar panel, and its associated battery, provides the light to allow their children to study into the night and their businesses to remain open after dark. The nighttime lighting also reduces crime. New businesses and jobs were created. With increased economic activity, income and educational levels continue to rise .

The transformation of rural Bengali society has been amazing. For all the aforementioned reasons, and many more, this book is an excellent read. Our two nations share the advantages that solar electricity offers. Bangladesh is a nation and society that is very different than ours, especially in terms of annual income, yet the impact solar energy has had on their society is indisputable. Solar’s contribution to American energy independence will ultimately be our greatest social reward. As we strive towards that goal, Americans reap the financial rewards of solar. The transformation of rural Bengali society has been amazing. For all the aforementioned reasons, and many more, this book is an excellent read. Our two nations share the advantages that solar electricity offers. Bangladesh is a nation and society that is very different than ours, especially in terms of annual income, yet the impact solar energy has had on their society is indisputable. Solar’s contribution to American energy independence will ultimately be our greatest social reward. As we strive towards that goal, Americans reap the financial rewards of solar.

By Mark Becker, GoSimpleSolar

Mark Becker is the President of GoSimpleSolar , by Semper Fidelis Construction,a Danville based Solar Installation Firm. Mark can be reached at 925.915.9252.Come visit GoSimpleSolar’s new showroom at 114 West Prospect Ave. in Danville to see, touch, and discuss solar and energy efficiency products. For more details, see www.GoSimpleSolar.com or email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com.