Archive for the 'International' Category

Help for Haiti with a Renewable Twist

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

By: Greg Holman

In light of the recent events in Haiti, there are a number of ways to support in the relief efforts. Here are two ways you, or your school can donate with a renewable/solar twist! Both of these items will not only help with the dire situation right now, but help the people of Haiti with cooking and lighting for years to come. Know that both of these organizations take donations of any amount, and have been on the ground in Haiti long before the earthquake. Sometimes, when everyone helps a little, it adds up to a lot!

Here is a summary about each opportunity:

From Kirk Weaver, Sunlight Solar:

Your students might find it interesting to find the Light Haiti Project on the Clinton Global Initiative web site – for more information. SunNight solar is the Commitment Maker for this project. We are currently in discussions with the CGI people a significant expansion of the project due to the immensely greater need now due to the earthquake.

Best regards,

From Paul Munsen, Sun Ovens International:
Sun Ovens International has been working in Haiti for the past 11 years. During that time deforestation has increased the need for an alternative to cooking with wood and charcoal. The recent earthquake has intensified the need for solar cooking and water purification. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are homeless and camps will need to be opened to provide food and shelter for Haiti’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Plans are underway to provide Sun Ovens to the IDPs in Haiti. We are partnering with the Friends of Haiti Organization (FOHO) to send as many Sun Ovens as we can to Haiti. On January 28, 2010, FOHO in partnership with Feed My Starving Children will be sending a shipping container with 270,000 meals and Sun Ovens to Port au Prince, Haiti. There is room for additional Sun Ovens to be included with this shipment and additional shipments are being planned. Donations of any amount will be greatly appreciated. Checks should be made payable to:

Friends of Haiti Organization
P. O. Box 222
Holland, OH 43528
(Please note the donation is for the Sun Oven project.)
FOHO is a 501C3 nonprofit prganization so all donations will be tax deductable. 100% of the donation will go directly to sending Sun Ovens to Haiti. No administrative expenses will be deducted. FOHO has been working in Haiti for 45 years and has sent over 1,400 Global Sun Ovens and 12 Villager Sun Ovens to Haiti.

Students at Paradise Intermediate School have purchased and used both the Sunoven and the BOGO Solar Light. These are durable products that will be an excellent source of baking and light in areas with no electricity.

Students in the Evergreen 6 program have sold items baked in ovens that were part of a Pacific Gas and Electric “Bright Ideas” grant in 2006. In addition to this revenue, they collected donations to be able to support these projects. We hope that you can too!

Happy Holidays – solar ideas for the holidays

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
It’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – a holiday that has evolved over the years, and taken in the positive, it’s a time to be with friends and family – to express gratitude, and celebrate the local harvest.
In modern time, it also often marks the fervent start of holiday shopping…with Black Friday falling on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and Cybermonday on the Monday after the holiday. We’d like you to think of turning Thanksgiving and Black Friday through the holidays into a solar year…by changing the present.
Do you want to change the way the world is powered this holiday season?  Are you looking for a unique gift idea?  Think about making a donation to a solar non-profit partner.  Small donations for these organizations can make a huge impact.  And if you’re looking for a unique gift idea, or perhaps searching for the perfect item for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list, consider making a donation to one of the organizations below in their name.  Nothing says “I love you” like a little solar goodness.

Solar for Africa and the Amazon – Solar Electric Light Fund – fighting climate change and poverty with solar - Give Now

Solar Advocacy – support the solar advocates doing work around the US – Vote Solar - Give Now

Solar for Turtles – La Tortuga Feliz – help support the next phase of solar work at the sanctuary and the turtles year round - Give Now

Solar Affordable Housing – Grid Alternatives – low income housing and green jobs in California - Give Now

Solar Education – 100 People Foundation – connecting more schools and profiling solar leaders in the US and around the world  - Give Now

This is by no means an exhaustive list…pick your solar cause, and let’s change our solar present and future together!

Looking for 100 People Under the Sun

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

“More energy from the sun hits the earth in an hour than all the energy consumed by human beings on our planet in an entire year. “  Nate Lewis, Professor, California Institute of Technology

Many of our readers already have heard this statement…but what does it really mean, and how do we plug in?  Who are the leaders among us around the world, how can our communities learn from them, and what new lessons can we build on in 2009?  Most of our readers are connected through our solar schools…as I type this, we are close to 100 posts on our Energy Seeds site and have close to a thousand visitors a month from around the world (only 50 of you comment…but we know you’re out there)!  We are very happy to have you with us as we start a new effort…and I hope you will find it as exciting as I do.

Today I leave to join the 100 People team for a trip around the world…to begin telling a new story of solar leaders around the world – 100 People Under the Sun.  Some of you will be featured in this launch…and we hope to include others as we expand this effort over the next months and years.  Our team started in Paradise over the weekend with a trip to visit Greg Holman and Mario – both are contributors to Energy Seeds, and one of the first schools selected for the PG&E Solar Schools Program.  Tonight, we leave for the Philippines…then on to Malawi and Spain.

You will hear more about this effort in the coming months.  Check out the site below, and consider having your school join this effort…we will highlight leaders among us, and hopefully reach many new students around the world.

Here’s a little background:
The 100 People Foundation is proud to announce a new project in collaboration with our energy partner, SunPower Foundation.

In a world that has become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, the need to understand commonalities, shared values and resources is vital. The 100 People Project set out to do this through the simple means of educating and connecting the people of the world through photography and film.
SunPower Foundation seeks to create a future where sustainable, clean solar power is an essential component of the global energy mix.  With 100 People Under the Sun, we have joined forces to help educate a global population about the tremendous potential that sunlight offers.

Australia: Sharing Environmental Education with US

Friday, August 8th, 2008

The National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) has a motto – “kids teaching kids.” In June, this motto was changed to “kids teaching teachers.” John Atkins, principal of Botany Bay Environmental School in Sydney, Australia visited the United States in an effort to learn more about sustainability and “green” education in the US. Chris Graillent from the California Department of Energy was instrumental in connecting Mr. Atkins to contacts in the “states.” Evergreen 6, a PG&E Solar School in Paradise California, was just one of several stops he made. As part of Paradise Intermediate School, Evergreen 6 has about 90 sixth graders that have learned several ways to reduce their impacts on the environment and to share those ways with others.

As they did for several classes of third graders, E6 students shared their knowledge about a number of topics with Mr. Atkins:

  • Facts about our sun
  • Sunscreen facts and rules for application
  • Solar cooking
  • The role solar cooking could play in many parts of the world that have energy shortages
  • Rain water harvesting
  • Composting with worms (vermicomposting)
  • Composting by pile (thermocomposting)
  • Solar energy today and tomorrow
  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars (model)
  • Alternative transportation (Hybrids, electrics)
  • Various grants received (PG&E Solar Installation, PG&E “Bright Ideas,” Paradise Community Foundation Recycling/Composting grant, California Schools Garden grant)
  • Parts of a solar system
  • Solar orientation
  • Fresnel lens
  • Net metering

Mr. Atkins was an outstanding “student” and was very generous in his questions and interest. Evergreen 6 students were lucky enough to spend a few hours talking about and questioning how things are different (and the same) in Australia. Then they were treated to a slide show on the Botany Bay Environmental School and some of their outings.

Students were surprised to find out that one rule, at this school in Australia, is that you may not participate in outside recess without a hat – it is compulsory. In the United States, hats have actually been banned from many schools for a number of reasons. However, when you think about what hats and sunscreen can prevent, it seems obvious to require hats outside.

If being able to spend the morning with this fantastic teacher from Oz wasn’t enough, Mr. Atkins presented the school with a boomerang, and personal lessons on how to throw one. After that, he was into his hybrid rental and off to another school visit.

The students and staff of Evergreen really felt fortunate for the visit. We felt validated that what we are doing is unique and worthwhile. We also learned so much from our virtual field trip to Australia. Now if we can just figure out how to take a trip down there….

Dead Bat Mate, Solar, and…Argentinian Energy Seeds

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

How often do you get to put Dead Bat Mate, and solar in the same sentence?  We hope we have your interest perked…we want to share a perspective on a project we are just beginning.


This project has different partners and finds us working with an entirely new group of people from Ohio to rural Argentina and the projects are unlike anything that you might see in the United States.  After all, while Argentina is in the same hemisphere as the United States, it is south of the equator.

Most of our blog stories are about completed solar projects on schools and other kinds of public buildings inside the United States, but Argentina is different in so many ways even our blog stories will be different.   We thought you might need blog stories that would provide you with some insights into the background of this part of the world.  This is rural Argentina.  This is not Buenos Aires.  Some background on rural Argentina is important.

Below are two stories that will help you understand the location for projects that are in their early phases.  They were both written by Beatrice de Courtivron.  Her organization is MotoMedics International.

photo1.jpg photo2.jpg photo3.jpg photo6.jpg

We felt it was important for you to read two stories because the first is a little bit funny and the second is very sad.  This part of the world is inhabited by fantastic people who enjoy life, but who face indescribable hardships so their lives are often funny and sometime very sad.  The two stories seem to convey both emotions so we are choosing to give you both.  In the next few months, we will give you more stories about our partnership with MotoMedics and the people of rural Argentina.  If you want to look this area up on a map, look for Santiago del Estero, Argentina.  The second story took place in Majadas, Argentina.

And so none of you ask “where are the solar panels?” here is a picture of an installer explaining what is going to happen when the sun hits the panel and electricity is created…in Santiago Del Estero, Argentina.


But before we show you more pictures and tell you stories about solar panels on schools in Argentina, it is important for you to learn a little bit more about this country.

Story One: Dead Bat Mate

Argentines love their mate. Its more than an herb infused drink; it’s hospitality, a ritual, socializing. Everyone drinks from the same straw, they pass the cup around. No one worries about each other’s germs. I happen to like it very much. Although I prefer it unsweetened, sweet is fine too. Argentines seem to like everything sweet so it is easier for me to drink it whatever way they do.


In Burro Pozo, during a lull before lunch, the mate comes out. The woman prepares the cup. First the mate leaves go in then the hot water. Everyone takes it in turn then passes it around. The water is continually added between drinkers. As there is no electricity here, water is kept hot by placing the kettle on burning pieces of wood on a piece of metal that they carry around with them. When the leaves need to be changed, they put fresh mate in, add the hot water and pass it around. I enjoy this ritual; the easy socializing with our hosts.  I knew the minute we arrived at this rancho and saw a goat skin drying in the sun that we would have cabrito today. I watch the grandmother and a daughter cut and grill the pieces while I sit under the outdoor kitchen’s thatched roof and sip the mate.

Our team has divided into 2 shifts for lunch so at least one team is always working. Gerardo arrives from the small community/health center and joins us. After lunch while we walk back to the community center, he tells me about the well this community uses. It’s more of a water filled underground cave about a kilometer away and it is the only source of water for this little community. It was also home to the area bats. One of the men a while back decided it would be a good idea to smoke the bats out of the cave to keep their guano from falling into the water. So during the day, while the bats slept, they threw a bunch of burning torches into the hole, covered it up so the bats couldn’t escape and waited to rid the water of the bat guano problem. But since the bats couldn’t get out with the hole covered, they were smoked to death and fell into the water. There was no way to remove all the dead bats from the cave so there they remained. Dead Bat Water.

I look at him for a minute while my brain registers the implications and kicked into very high gear. My first desperate thought: O my God, I’ve been drinking dead bat mate. My second desperate but somewhat hopeful thought: it is made with hot water and please God help me that it was boiled for days for the constant mate drinking and had some semblance of sterility.

I waited for a couple of hours for the poisonous effects of dead bat mate to wrack my body. I pray not to get sick; I decide that if I am spared illness, I will never ever drink anything boiled or otherwise without casually inquiring about what could be in the water first. But nothing happened. I have always liked bats and found them interesting. Now I wonder if I don’t carry some part of the cute little critters around in me.


Story Two: A Little Boy

photo5.jpgWhen we arrive at the clinic in Majadas, people are already lined up. The waiting room quickly fills up. I am taken aback by all the sick children. There is a Down’s baby who is 2 or 3 times the size of a normal baby his age. His mother smiles at me as he lies in her lap.

Both doctors start treating immediately. Graciela, a doctor from Santiago del Estero, is doing pediatrics. She quickly becomes overwhelmed. There are so many sick and not enough drugs. Many have bronchitis and asthma, there is so much dust. The antibiotics and inhalers go fast and she must resort to using the one remaining inhaler for several children to alleviate their symptoms. All the children have parasites; the drugs are gone in no time. There is simply not enough. The nearest city is hours away; there is no way to get any more and she must do what she can.

This is the second day that we are using the portable EKG that MMI has purchased and donated to Pilotos. I am learning to attach the leads and run the test. Mirtha, the cardiologist, is doing brief physicals and I do the EKGs when she asks me. There are several Chagasic patients, one with advanced TB, who come through. We’ve been working for several hours when Graciela asks Mirtha to help examine one of the children. He has been fainting and turning blue. He is brought into the room where I am for an EKG. He is 3 years old. He can’t lie down because he faints so we do the test with him sitting up. He faints when he cries so we give him cookies while we attach the leads and try to do the test. He is so little, the leads keep falling off his chest. He looks down at the wires and starts crying; we all talk to him and give him another cookie. We have to hold the leads in place. There are 3 of us who do this; I am holding the last 3 against his chest. We do manage to get a reading. He has Chagas disease and his heart is severely damaged. Both doctors speak with his mother. He must be taken to the hospital in Santiago or he will die. She is barely 20 yrs old, she has two older children and is pregnant with her fourth child, her husband works away from the rancho. He brings money when he visits his family. Essentially she is alone. She does not have the money for the bus trip into the city, who will take care of her other children and her animals? It’s a death sentence for this little boy.

I am so distraught after his mother takes him from the room that I have to be alone. People who know me know that I always have something to say. But I am speechless; without words. I go outside for a walk. It’s hot and brilliantly sunny. The sky is a cloudless blue. There is no sign of the torrential rains 2 days prior. The ground is as cracked and parched as ever. The cacti are blooming. I really need a distraction so I start taking photographs of the flowers. There are scorpions and poisonous snakes here. People die of snakebite and I am terrified of snakes. But I am so focused on my flowers that I don’t even think about them.  I am busy with my camera when Gerardo comes looking for me. I struggle trying to explain. I just have no words. He knows this forest with its seemingly insurmountable problems so well. There are thousands of such children in Argentina. Millions in Central and South America. They expect to die young; they know that not all of their children may survive. They all need help and that is why we are here. To help, to make a difference.

I know this intellectually but it was my hands holding the leads on this little boy’s chest. I felt his ribcage expand with his breathing. I felt the panic to stop him from crying less he faint. It is very personal to me. I talk about my own 2 sons. They are sick, I go to the doctor’s. They need meds, I buy them. Here, there is nothing. A few drugs, some supplies on a metal shelf. I feel completely impotent, walking in this forest, under the relentless bright sun, the cactus flowers.

We walk down the path on the way back to the clinic. I see the little boy and his mother leaving. He is sitting in the basket attached to her bicycle’s handlebars. He is wrapped in a towel. He reminds of me of E.T. as I watch them head down the dirt road on their way back to their rancho. He glances at me from under his towel as they pass by. I don’t even know his name.

Chico’s  flower

For more information about Beatrice’s program:

California Teacher Sheds Light On Solar In Germany

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Let us introduce you to an energetic, hands-on science and gardening teacher from Oakland, California. Sue Morgan has taught elementary science for fifteen years. At Sequoia and Glenview Elementary, Mrs. Morgan emphasizes a responsible energy future to the adults of tomorrow. As a PG&E solar school teacher, a member of the NEED/ PG&E California Teacher Advisory Board, and recently a Fund for Teachers recipient, Sue has a solid background on the topic of solar. Here is what she submitted about her recent trip to learn about solar in Germany:

I was the proud recipient of a grant from the Fund For Teachers (which has funding for K-12 teachers, within specific urban areas of the US, to go on summer education trips – As the Science teacher at Glenview Elementary School, the first PG&E Solar School in Oakland California, I was interested in researching and observing first-hand the major solar electric installations that have gone up in Germany over the past few years. Germany has distanced itself from all other countries in the world in committing and following through on alternative forms of electricity production. I took advantage of my fellowship to visit, in person, four of the largest PV Solar Parks in the world, all of which are located in Germany. Germany’s increase in solar electric installations is quite impressive: 2003, 145MW; 2006, 968MW. An increase of over 600% in 3 years! An astounding 40+ percent is in residential power!

For my fellowship, I chose to also attend the Intersolar. The intersolar is an international conference and trade show to spotlight solar electric designs and innovations which has been held in Freiburg, Germany for the past 6 or 7 years. Having lived in Germany after graduating from college oh so many years ago, I did have to do some pretrip refresher sessions on my German language abilities. In attending the Intersolar 2007 I found it amazing, overwhelming and a bit disjointed for someone from the under-funded education and nonprofit world. But once I got past the costs involved in the exhibitors’ stalls and booths (multiple flat screens for viewing, couches, tables, chairs, the plethora of give aways; pens, pencils, canvas bags, flyers, Frisbees) and got focused on what some of the new technologies are and I was impressed: Solar glass handling much of the power needs on a skyscraper floor; rolled out solar sheets which are less bulky and labor intensive to install on roofs; solar imbedded in roofing materials. There was a lot of solar electric for heating. All of these were being done in many areas of Europe and Asia.

After the three day conference we set off in search of some of the largest solar electric installations in the world. It was inspiring to actually see these PV Solar Parks in situ, knowing that they were producing 5-12 megawatts of power (enough to power 1700-4000 households) and emitting NO greenhouse gases. Just observing the ‘Potential Possibles’ made me feel simply elated. That a promised innovative technology- capable of producing what we all need without present pollution or never-ending toxic waste- has been given an arena to prove itself, is indeed a reality suffused with hope.

Solarpark Pocking… 10MW powering 3500 households, also allowing sheep to continue grazing.

In 2006 alone, Germany installed over 960 MW of electricity. These installations included residential and commercial in large and small spaces. Installations that I visited were located in rural areas not far from major cities, but actually situated on the outskirts of small villages. Many residents were aware of their hidden power plants, but in one case when we were ever so close, I jumped out of the car to ask fine tune directions from a fire fighter and discovered he knew nothing one of the world’s largest solar electric plant no more than 2 miles from his firehouse. Then again, he may not have been from the community… but from a larger city.

All but one of the solar parks were experiencing rain on the day we found ourselves visiting and 3 of the 4 had sheep and/or goats that were grazing on grass growing underneath the panels. None of the parks were far from residential areas so there was little loss of power in transport. Most of the Solarparks were really not part of the visual landscape and only one had signage to let you know you were getting close. These parks were not easy to find, meaning they were not on major motorways. Back roads and small communities are where these parks are found amid rolling fields of grapes, wheat or just plain grazing land.

Sheep sharing the Gut Erlasee field with 12MW of solar power.

I am more convinced than ever that solar can truly be a part of our future electric needs. Since all of the large solar parks are on farm land, it seems as though they have one field for wheat, another for corn and then one for panels which power the area. If they can power 1500-4000 households, that is a lot of power for a field to produce. Yes, they still need to grow food. Hopefully, those in charge will make sure the money does not become the sole reason for solar decision making. It’s that moderation, that balance, that we must strive for instead of profits over people and the planet. Yes, there is another way to look at what makes a community strong and healthy and how we choose to live.

As a science teacher, this fellowship allowed me to see first hand the size and impact these large installations are having. I have seen the panels near the Mojave Desert here in California, whose landscape calls for more solar, but these areas in Germany are part of farmland, rolling hillsides. The weather in mid-late June was overcast with daily bouts of thunderstorms and lots of rain… for perhaps an hour or so followed by sunny skies again. My assumption is that if they are actually producing enough electricity with that kind of weather, we in California should certainly get moving on installing as much solar electric as we can (and with our Solar Initiative 2006 we are)!

Solarpark Muehlhausen Germany 6.3MW powering 2025 households.

I read recently that California is on pace in 2007 to install more solar electric than all California installations in the previous 30 years. So, it does seem as though we are waking up and committing to a future with a future. I have also recently read an op ed piece that touted nuclear energy as the ‘greenhouse gas free’ alternative energy source that will help slow climate change. There was no mention of the pesky toxic, and when we are talking nuclear toxic, we are talking life toxicity for THOUSANDS of years. This is toxic residue that no one in 50 years has figured out how to deal with in a competent way and for good reason. So NUCLEAR to me is a dirty, pardon the pun, secret that has no viability in our future. I think it is irresponsible of politicians and business people to discuss it as something that might have a future.. purely because they might be able to make a better profit on it. Yes, solar is still expensive, but thousands of years of toxicity will be pretty expensive itself and it’s not as though we do not have alternatives to try out with serious financial backing first. Germany provides the real-time now example of one way to attempt this experiment.

As a teacher, I feel it is important for me to inspire my students to push for a solar future, for these children will be paying their own electric bills before we know it. Sharing with the students, their parents and the community at large, my first hand experience of massive solar that works, may just help educate a larger percentage of the Dimond and Glenview Communities on how viable solar really is. If it can happen in Germany in such numbers, it can certainly happen here.

Sue Morgan Glenview Elementary, Oakland CA.

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