Solar-Based Rural Electrification Programs
Enersol’s work followed the interest generated from the first PV system, installed by Richard Hansen in April 1984 in the house and store of Felipe Martinez in the community of Bella Vista, Sosua, Dominican Republic. This system was financed by Hansen under a four-year micro-credit payment plan with a monthly payment about equal to the family’s prior monthly expense for kerosene and batteries.
During the period from 1985 to 1987 Enersol created the SOlar-BASed rural Electrification Concept (SO-BASEC) in the Dominican Republic. The SO-BASEC innovation merged technical design and sustainability: an appropriate low-cost, practical, PV system that could be sold and installed by local PV supply micro-enterprises, with financing through a low-cost micro-credit payment plan managed by a local association, cooperative or NGO.
The first micro-credit fund to finance PV was established in March 1985 with a $2,000 grant from USAID [ here's the USAID grant letter ]. Enersol immediately began training US Peace Corps Volunteers, who helped identify local talent and spread the work to other areas of the country. Enersol provided training and technical assistance to PV supply micro-enterprise entrepreneurs and NGO credit program managers.
An extensive case study on this work was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) and done in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts (Lowell) in August 1987. In May 1988 a shortened version was published in the United Nations Natural Resources Forum [ here's the article ].
Between1987 and 1996 Enersol established two SO-BASEC Programs, one in the Dominican Republic and one in Honduras.
Dominican Republic SO-BASEC Program
In 1988 Enersol established a multi-year SO-BASEC Program in the Dominican Republic. By 1990 Enersol’s training and assistance to local technicians and micro-credit programs had led to the electrification of 1,000 households and micro-enterprises [ check out this article from Solar Today, April 1990 ]. The SO-BASEC model demonstrated that solar electrification was an affordable and effective alternative to conventional grid systems and that it benefited the environment and contributed to local economic development as well [ check out this article: Solar Electricity for Rural Development by Steven L. Kaufman (1994) ]
The Dominican Republic SO-BASEC Program drew global interest. In 1992 Enersol created a video tape titled “Solar Electricity for Rural Development” that found its way to far flung parts of the world.
The vision of replicating the SO-BASEC model in other parts of the world was appealing to many. In 1992 H. Harish Hande, a graduate student from India at the University of Massachusetts (Lowell), visited Enersol in the Dominican Republic. That visit was a turning point for Hande, who recalled being struck by the use of solar energy in areas of the DR with worse poverty than India. He returned to Massachusetts, flung his heat transfer thesis into the river and started anew on solar electrification in rural areas. A paper soon followed that envisioned a replication in India of the model created by Enersol [ click here to view the paper].
At around the same time the World Bank, while planning PV electrification activities for the Asian region, investigated best practices in PV electrification around the world. It closely studied work in three Asian countries -- Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines -- and the Dominican Republic. In 1993 a World Bank mission arrived in the DR specifically to study the leading edge work of Enersol [ World Bank Best Practices Document ].
Honduras SO-BASEC Program
In 1989, under funding from the USDOE, Enersol reviewed the potential for replicating the Dominican Republic SO-BASEC program in Central America. In 1991 Enersol initiated a SO-BASEC program in Honduras in collaboration with the US Peace Corps Honduras. By 1994 Enersol’s work had led to the electrification of 1000 households and micro-enterprises by local technicians and micro-credit programs trained and assisted by Enersol. At this time Enersol’s SO-BASEC program in Honduras participated as the only PV project in the first round project of the US Initiative for Joint Implementation Projects for early greenhouse gas reduction activities [ view the USIJI Project Document ].