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Solar for Shikha a Success: Solar Panels Bring Reliable Energy to Shikha, Nepal

September 1, 2011

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Over the weekend, much of the eastern United States blinked briefly off the grid as Irene swept up the coast. But on the other side of the world, a village called Shikha plugged into a reliable power source for the first time.

For Shikha and the neighboring towns in the Annapurna region of Nepal, frequent power outages have always been the norm. This sporadic access to electricity has rendered useless a computer lab at Shikha Higher Secondary School, where some 350 children from the area attend classes.

Enter Solar Energy for Shikha School, a project conceived by Knowledge Mosaic developer Tilak Pun and Chief Technology Officer Clif Swiggett to bring solar power—and the education, communication, and empowerment that comes with it—to Shikha, where Tilak himself attended school as a boy. Tilak, Clif, and the Swiggett family set out for Nepal earlier this summer to install ten solar panels that will power laptops for the students of Shikha for years to come.

In his latest dispatch, Clif reported that it was “a major revelation to see how difficult it is to get things done in the remote hill villages of Nepal.” He and Tilak had anticipated many of the obstacles, literal and otherwise, that stood before them on the road to Shikha; but no amount of foresight can simplify the task of hauling some 1,400 pounds of equipment through the mountains of Nepal during the monsoon season.

After days of battling bureaucratic entanglements in Kathmandu, the group loaded its equipment onto a tractor and headed for the hills. There they encountered mudslides, enormous boulders, and stretches where the road had washed out entirely. At one point, Clif says, “the road was so narrow that the only way to pass was for the tire of the tractor to literally hang halfway over the edge.” And all that to say nothing of the leeches.

Remarkably, the equipment arrived in Shikha unharmed, and Tilak, the Swiggetts, and a number of volunteers from the community worked through the torrential rain to install the solar panel system on the roof of the school. At night they hiked up to Tilak’s hometown of Swanta to sleep in the stone home his father built more than 40 years ago.

Eight days later, the project was completed: “Solar for Shikha is real,” Clif reports. “Shikha Higher Secondary School now has ten laptops and reliable power to keep them running far into the future.”

The Swiggett family will soon be returning to Seattle. Clif tells us that it “was immensely satisfying to be a part of this community, to feel the excitement, to feel the hope and commitment, and to know that we will always be connected even though we may be on other sides of the planet.”

Tilak will stay in Nepal for a few more weeks, working with the school to introduce accessible education systems, including the innovative Khan Academy, to further expand the opportunities available to Shikha’s students.

Keep track of this project by visiting the Solar for Shikha Facebook page; or search “Nepal” here on Blogmosaic.

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